Recovery is something I have been attempting to do more actively as an adult, but is also a theme that has haunted my life. I say haunted because it stalks me even when I do not want it to. Sometimes I don’t want to be involved in recovery processes, my own or anyone else’s. It is a healing process, but broadly insinuates that some kind of trauma has occurred in order to jump the process of recovery into action. It also is a ton of work, and especially draining for someone with empathetic tendencies as I have.
Recovery for me is mentally fighting an eating disorder every day. Recovery for me is finally talking about that struggle when it was not a public part of my persona for so long. It is also accepting my body, creating a healthier relationship with food, learning to practice intuitive eating and doing yoga in my back yard. Recovery for me is doing deep breathing when I am confronted with chaos. It is eating that extra bowl of spaghetti and not sucking in my stomach, or covering myself with a pillow when I sit on the couch afterwards. It is letting my husband put his hand on my stomach with out me flinching and internally cringing. And being able to feel worthy to be in this world.
Recovery for me is laying in my hammock and letting my Dog lick my face. Letting her warm large body press down on me, making me feel loved and safe.
The recovery that surrounds me is watching my stepson recover from drug addiction. Or sometimes not recover. Recovery that surrounds me is marrying into a broken family and trying to help piece it back together, at the risk of my own sanity and my relationship with my husband. Recovery that surrounds me is still worrying about my father’s drinking, and praying that my parents marriage will last through chaos. It is talking to my sister about our shared experiences in this life, forgiving myself for past mistakes and following steps that help me to make every day tolerable, if not lovely.
A significant recovery that I assisted with his that of my horse Chief. He is also the reason anxiety crept up on me this afternoon, which I originally thought was out of no where. Those who meet or know Chief now, know him as the loving/steady Labrador retriever of a horse that he is. He is a curious and gentle boy. He always was that horse underneath and I like to think I brought some of that back to the surface.
But when Chief was left to me, what many people do not know is that he was really tough. And he was not just tough for me. He was tough for the 5 owners prior to me that I could trace back and question about his history. These people were all better riders than me, and aside from one cowboy, all had the same story… Big Bucker.
. And when Chief got healthy, he became really rough to ride and handle, which really impacted my confidence, in life and in my horse journey.
The first day I groomed Chief he tried to bite me every time I turned my head away from him. He also tried to rip a barn door off its hinges, and didn’t have respectful boundaries resulting in a couple menacing groundwork sessions…well maybe a lot of menacing groundwork sessions. That is, until we got to know one another.
I was relentless in his training… on the ground. I worked with him every day, and I now have the result of that. Chief would follow me anywhere, and I promised him I would never lead him into harm’s way.
Prior to owning Chief I was taking riding lessons with an instructor (who later became my friend) and I always felt like she respected my “level” of riding knowledge. She had nice horses, would not lesson any of them more than once a day and had a select number of students whom she taught. I always felt pretty confident, and would really get on anyone’s horse without a fear. I even remember feeling so much pride when she would compliment me (compliments were rare) on my performance.
When I was young (15 years ago) I loved to jump. I had been riding since I was a small child and had no fear. I have videos of myself riding and I had a nice little seat and a natural understanding of moving with the horse. And I realize, that until I quit… it was the only sport I did where I felt like I was good enough. And then I went to a competitive barn, was not encouraged to improve, and quit. I was bigger than the other girls, and no one really spoke to me. I was different.
Fast forward to now. Now Chief and I only do basic things together, and sometimes we do them really well, and some days not so well. But I could have 10 great sessions in a row, and one off day makes me sick to my stomach. I feel like I am disappointing myself, hurting Chief, and making myself look like an asshole. I always tell myself that I just want to enjoy my horse and ride him for pleasure. But I also remember arena work and truly enjoy it when I have a plan and can keep it interesting.
Today Chief did not want to move. At first I thought he may have been lame in his front left leg, but alas he just wanted to go out the gate, out of the footing he does not prefer to wander the farm.
I found myself being really unbalanced, really hard with my ques and really aggressive with my leg, all to a very limited, very short response. I thought about it, Re framed my brain and began asking for little things at the walk. Leg yields, turn on the forehands and back ups, rewarding him for the good tries and he came back a little bit. But when I finished I still felt I had let him down.
I felt like a sloppy rider in a sloppy body who always makes mistakes. But right now I feel like… Fuck that. Chief is so wonderful now because of the countless hours I have dedicated to letting him know he is safe and loved and listened to. Not one person I know now would have volunteered to ride Chief, even as recently as last summer because of his unpredictability. And guess what. Sometimes we have days where we look really good together. Today was just not one of them. And we never have bucking issues anymore and he rarely spooks. So I would say that is a pretty fucking good outcome for this old rodeo horse. And today I was a sloppy rider, but most days I am not. So I need to get mentally out of my own way.
Chief knows I mean him only the best. Today was an off day. And it can only get better from here.
So as I try to forgive myself for giving Chief a really shitty ride today, I am trying to look forward to the next try being gentler and more conducive to our communication.
Recovery is different for everyone, man or animal. And you know what? There are days where I don’t really feel like moving forward either, So, Chief, If horses ever take over the world and you read this, I love you buddy.