I have always said, I can detach easily from anyone and anything, except two: children and animals.
I have had a love for horses since a baby, my parent’s allowed all my brothers to ride except me being the only “girl,” I should keep my “virginity and spine healthy”. Unlike most countries where horse riding is mainly female dominated- in the Middle Eastern countries however, it is males dominated. Anyways, they could not keep me away for long, I recall the first horse I ever got on at 15 years old, I read on riding and taught myself really. I only started taking riding seriously and not just a passion over 4 years ago, and more precisely I got very serious with riding a little over 2 years ago again always coming with instructions and bigger goals to my trainers. First, I had an amazing woman who really fueled my passion for show jumping train me for a year, then for the past year I trained myself.
Slatra’s my personal main horse, I do have another mare and gelding- but she has always been my baby! I derived her name from an Irish name that means: robust, the one that spreads life, of health and power.
It happened as a coincidence that I bought this mare, she was the last one I tried last minute after having given up on finding my ideal horse in Europe. Totally did not appeal to my perfect envisioned horse… but it happened, amateur me managed to jump a full course with her at 4 years of age and I was sold.
I wanted a horse to grow with and that is exactly what happened. I progressed so quickly as a rider and jumper just as many who have been riding their lifetime just because her and I had two things in common: a big brave heart and an unstoppable unbreakable spirit. Moreover, I was riding many horses that were totally green and spooky so I learned the hard way to do the riding and a big percentage of it. My horses not only did not help the rider, but they made things harder being green, spooky, and with tough characters. But hey, nothing I love more than challenges!
Like all relationships, Slatra and I had lots of phases with a lot of danger, and a few strained and sprained muscles and ligaments lol. Also, just like so many tell you to give up on everything in this life cause they cannot do what they dreamed- I was always told to quit on her because of her “mean strong character, stubborn head, and violent ways”… I just believed with all my heart sooner or later she will mirror me, I knew she was just testing me- she considers herself a princess after all with her German-hard-head. Her love was beyond difficult to gain, but oh so worth it! Long gone are the days her mission would be to put anyone on her down with mighty force. I can ride her with zero tack in open nature and she will listen to my energy and words. Long gone are the days trainers insisted I use a stronger bit, tighter nose band, sharper spurs and longer whip to get her under control and listening! I simply knew she is a strong character that can never be broken and I respected that cause I am the same! The key was to work with her, not against her. She is confident and needs you to trust in her to do the job so as long as you do not force her. If you use force, she may do it for a time or two then reject doing anything from there on.
Starting last year I decided to take her in to compete; she loves to jump and BIG considering her size, so I took her bigger than usual for first time competitors as a rider and horse. Of course being in a different surrounding and all, many days were not her days she was anything like back home but we managed to win with a bond, I would talk to her throughout the courses and never force her to anything, I kept my aggression light. We managed a few clear rounds first few shows, although not with ease lol. And so we did better than everyone expected- again, they think small cause they are small, my only competition was my performance the day before- no one else in mind but myself and making sure we were both growing and progressing as one. Then beginning of this year after moving up a level bigger the worst day being a pole down, I then traveled for a few quick days and came back and it just got bad too quick she was refusing to jump or canter even. A trainer I then trusted told me “She is a bitch, needs a stronger rider to beat her..” Ummm yeah months later of trying to force her to compete according to his and others advices’ she has been quite badly injured till today since January, not just one injury either! I regret not following my intuitions and listening to those that call themselves “professionals” over the pain I saw in her eyes. It just all happened so suddenly; you never really see it going from win to the next, then take a break and it is all gone. But I knew life is all about balance; ups and downs. You cannot win forever!
At some point I was angry with her cause she failed my big dreams to go bigger and bigger- this is my character and spirit- continually aiming higher! Particularly that I went from someone who did not know her left from right, and hated counting and numbers; to sketching and building my own courses on the arena from scratch. I walked and counted every stride and carried every stand, pole, and gate. Every win I had, I earned it all alone! Not just that, but with a number of people sitting watching in envy trying to sabotage me and wishing nothing but well. I would lie at night sketching courses like it had become an addiction. I felt all my energy was cut short, I was fueled with fire to jump higher, but hey that is the sport, you are not alone in it you are on an animal and almost 70% goes down to the horse in most cases. Not to mention having to deal with the spiteful envious stalking society in my city of riding on a daily basis. But yes, I forgave her in no time, worked with her on ground, started riding her bareback lightly, and went on to the other spooky mare to compete with. Then life got busy with lots of positive happenings to come and traveling begun with greater life goals to aim for and so competing was put to an end for me- just for now ;). But yes, now after a weekend with her by the beach, I have fallen in love all over again. She may have lost a lot of muscle mass, weight, and fitness being injured for this long.. but two things she will always have a big courageous heart and a princess attitude! First time by the sea and first time out of a boxed stable really for years (if not at competition arenas) as many expected that she would be her monstrous self, but not at all we were one. It was not just an sea either, still winter out here, which means crazy strong tides, freezing wind, and worst heavy sand possible, but she went right in following me! She definitely belonged. After the weekend was over she refused to get in the car, took 3 hours to make her part me and the sea.
Oh I need to mention here in Egypt in most cases horses have a small section in a spots club in which you have a tiny arena and indoors and they are ridden for an hour at best and then all day trapped in a dark box in the heat and all flies, yep got to be super depressing! So not a horses nature.
So the main reason for this post is to mention the lessons learned from my horses, and my dog Valerie is also a big inspiration. Let us begin:
Presence in the NOW: If you are on a horse and not fully there either you will be on the ground or you will really miss out! The only way to live in peace is to live in the moment, stay present in the now. Living in the past will leave you depressed, and living in the future only makes one stressed with anxieties of extreme hope or despair. Focus on your today and no further.
Self-awareness: Your horse can only reflect how you feel. Well, unless you get on it and treat and ride them like machines with pure aggression like so many do. But if you Are not in tune with your own feelings, certainly you cannot notice them mirrored in your horse.
Conscious thoughts/the power of energy: Like the point mentioned above, your horse becomes you. What you think is transformed into energy, thoughts ARE energy, so be very wary of where your mind wanders..you may ignore it, but your horse won’t!
Honesty and straightforwardness: What you see in their eyes is never masked. If they do not like you they will be sure to show you that, and if it is a horse like my mare with a strong stubborn character; she will put you down in any way she can!
Becoming one/teamwork: Communication is a must, and the simpler the aids the better. Also, trust, which is earned. When you not just work together but you actually get one another, nothing is more sublime than you and your horse becoming one.
Trust: It is not just all about you trusting the horse cause you are on it, but you have got to trust in them to do the job and know they will do it at the best of their ability- whether it suitors up or not, that is not of significance. A step at a time. Trust takes years to build!
Consistency pays off: You repeat what you want to teach them and persist kindly…they follow through. Follow that with a treat on some days or simply a pat or kiss and they know what to do more of 😉
Freedom/fun: I always thought my spirit mirrors that of wild horses…the Chinese zodiac thinks so as well according to my birth date haha! Well yes, regardless of the fact you have had a bad day or the many problems you think you have in your life, once you get on a horses back leave it all behind and run free! Let your spirit soar along!
Pain is a signal: If they are competition horses and are not performing well and suddenly, then the root issue is probably physical pain. Check ups are a must just as equally for equines as us humans. Prevention is always best, look for internal causes.
Have a plan: You cannot just ride randomly day in and out. If you want your horse to grow, just like us humans, you got to challenge them wisely though! Break the routines.
Love for nature: Nature is free therapy. Get out there, open not just your eyes wide but your hearts and minds…and sigh heavily and breath mindfully.
Power of the mind/Leadership: Really any horse is stronger than any human on it, so leading after all lies in having the qualities in which you gain respect from and have your horse feel secure with you on them. You become their abode.
PERSONAL BOUNDARIES: Having healthy personal boundaries is a must as humans or else you will be manipulated and feel used up in this life. Like with horses, you teach them to respect your space; when you ask for them to back off they do so without thought.
The power of breath: My horses and dog love to just breath me in and out as we exchange breaths! Oh how reviving!
Memory: They never forget. I call their name, they call me back. The best part is, they choose to remember more good than bad.
Forgiveness: You left them for long, you did a mistake in riding or jumping..they forgive, they still carry you and help you if not.
Face your fears: When they see something intriguing and frightening they go to it to confront it and to be sure whether they should fight or flight as a response.
Emphasize endings: Make sure you value the end of each ride and end it positively. People put so much effort, time, and even money in beginnings I believe, but never in endings. Although everything ends in this life! Think of the amount of rituals, expenses, and ceremonies it takes to get engaged or married for example. I think we all should place an even greater emphasis on endings, to make them also happy and peaceful- no matter how sad we are- instead of unimportant, denied, full of blame, regret, and resentfulness.
Yesterday does not matter: A horse can eliminate one day then the next clear it with ease and hit first place! They do not let their yesterdays affect their today’s, they stay in the now. Also, I used to think progress always has to come in the form of victories and moving forward- no matter how small, but sometimes progress comes in failures. Other than the fact you cannot win all the time. Life is balance between ups and downs. But even if you do win always, you will never learn. The best of lessons come from knowing what did not work after all! And the only real failure is indeed giving up and/or quitting.
Be patient! Give time, time and positive change will happen.
Slow and steady wins! Too much too quick, you will burn your horse out; take it day by day and a step at a time, horses are not machines.. they are free spirits. On the same not, in show jumping courses for example, take it an obstacle at a time if you overload yourself thinking of the many fences you will panic and so will your horse.
Pamper yourself, because you deserve it! Particularly if you work hard! My horses and dog LOVE to be showered, brushed, conditioned, and accessorized!
The more aggressive an animals nature, the more you need to treat it with LOVE! Yes LOVE, not more aggression. Do not fight aggression with more of it, it will back fire. Lead by example and fight with love. My Rottweiler, she is the most affectionate dog ever comes and hugs and kisses me out of nowhere, stares at me with love, shares my food, sleeps in my arms.. yep. It is only when someone gets aggressive or threatening to her that her genes really show. Even when she is misbehaving I can punish her lightly by ignoring her or holding her down but never would I hit her! Likewise applies with my mare, if she is having a bad day and bitching I make sure I am kinder, I compromise a little if it is a must.
Reserve your love and loyalty: Be careful whom you give your heart to, this starts with who you invest your energy in once again! If anyone goes on my mare, she will give them a hell of a hard time if not put them down, likewise my dog, she would most probably not give you any of the affection she gives me- they are reserved, but when they give they do so with their all! My mirrors after all 😉 The stronger the character, the harder and longer it takes to win their love and loyalty and so them.
Learn to listen: Although my mare and dog call back at me when I call their names, when riding and often in every day times they talk to you in silence. Learn to listen to their body language and above all the eyes. If you are highly intuitive like myself you can feel their waves of energy! My point here is, signals do not have to be loud- it can be sheer silence.
Intention matters: Aalign your energy with your intentions if you expect the results you wish!
Balance: Without it you fall off! In this life, balance is a must, overdo anything and it becomes toxic even the healthy foods lol.
They say ‘NO’ to what will do them no good or harm them and live each day like it is a new start. If you really want a fresh start, do not think of resolutions. Think of what you will drop in the trash. Let go of past stories. Let go of the mental baggage and negative self-talk. Let go of emotional baggage. Let go of toxic people and relationships. Let go of your strict conducts and black and whites. Let go of anger. Let go of your fears. Let go of things you don’t need, declutter. Let go of the burdens and unnecessary commitments. Let go of the weight of others. Let go let go let go and learn to say “NO”.
They are forever young and are their authentic selves! Maybe it is because their lives are much shorter than us humans, especially for dogs a day is like a month.. but yes- the older you get the more childlike you should be! Get out there and have fun. Do not let your age choke you in confinement of where you should be in your professional and personal life. Forget society’s expectations. Forget those pointing fingers and talking. Forget what your parents want you to do and become. Who do you want to become? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be with? Get out in this world and do you and only you! Create yourself, your life, and your happiness without anyone interfering. Others will always have judgments and expectations that you can never fulfill “enough” to pass… because they are insecure with their own selves and lives.. they once had to kill their passions, souls, hearts and dreams to please others. Do not be one of the many typical today. Be you.
I have to say it again: Be yourself even if it means you walk alone! This is one thing that so identical between my mare and I, she sees a herd of horses she chooses the opposite direction and walks with her head up high. That is the second I knew we belonged haha! Be yourself. Insecure people will always try to shape you into who they think you should be or more likely make you like them to feel better about themselves. Choose to embrace your authentic self that does not need no other for approval or fitting in. Secure people mind their own selves and lives, and set you free to be whomever you want to be. Be yourself, be secure, and feel irreplaceable because the fact is, you are!
Never give up! Fall off, get back on. Before you know it you will be riding better and jumping higher than you ever thought. What was an afar dream becomes an easy practiced passion.
Keep moving forward and look where you aim to go! You will hardly ever find a horse going backwards on it’s own, if you want to climb that mountain then see the summit before and during your mount!
Enough for now, I could keep going on but the list appears too long for most to read as usual haha! As I end this, prayers for Slatra to get better would be much appreciated! 🙂 I cannot wait for the day she soars with victories, she was born a champion no doubt!