It was 1984 and I was teaching preschool in Calabasas, California. It was the first day of school and a mother and daughter were having great separation anxiety. Daughter was screaming that she didn’t want to leave Mama and I was trying to tell the mom to leave. And she said to me, “But I love her.” And I told her that was why she had to go. And she did and the child screamed for a while and then settled down.
This incident came back to me on Sunday when I was riding Libby in a horsemanship clinic facilitated by Dave, who started Libby. I was having some difficulty with my girl and have been for the past couple of weeks. At 5 years of age, she is going through her “teenage” rebellious phase. It is hard for me to deal with. Those of you who have teenagers or have had teenagers know what I mean. Balancing the love with discipline. Learning to be assertive, but not aggressive. I have spent lots of time loving Libby and now it is time for some discipline. In our herd of two, Libby and me, I should be the alpha, but Libby wants to be. Oh no, we have a problem. A young mare looks up to an older and wiser mare for safety, guidance and protection. That older mare should be me….HA HA…..We are a young horse and an older horse trying to find the balance.
As many of you know, horses are healing. They have been used in all kinds of therapeutic situations around the world. So many kinds of equine-assisted therapies exist today. Until a few years ago, the San Juan Riding Program here in Ridgway served the Tri-County area in helping children and adults with disabilities. Horses are masters in the art of non-verbal communication. Just as there are dogs that can detect seizures coming on in people, horses can sense areas of disturbance in the human mind and be quite healing. Because the human race is very ego-based, we always think that we are helping the horse, and certainly in many cases, we are — however, it really is about the horse helping us. They are more in tune and always present. What a gift they are to us!
Several years back, I read this book by Wyatt Webb entitled, “It’s not about the horse, it’s about fear and self-doubt.” Take a moment to digest that one. Horses are so good at making us aware of our issues, if we would just “listen” to them. And they do so without regard to how it makes us feel in that moment. While this was a horsemanship clinic with ground-work and then work in the saddle, so many personal issues bubbled up for me and I owe it all to Libby. At one point on Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting down in the sand of the arena, holding Libby’s lead rope, and crying. Now mind you, this was not supposed to be that kind of a clinic, but when you are working with a 1,000-pound animal, who is more sensitive than you are, and issues such as frustration, nervousness, boundaries, trust, letting go and “old age” surface, what’s a girl to do, but talk directly to the horse and ask for help. Which is what I did. Funny how that works. I must have been quite a sight. Would have made a great you-tube video.
So this weekend, a new Libby showed up and now a new Alice has to come to the party. She and I are on this journey together — and while the road may be a bit rough at the moment, it will smooth out and we will see the daylight. I told Dave that I wouldn’t be having this difficulty if I were riding Scout, Dakota or Pockets, and he reminded me, for the second time, that I chose to ride a young, wild mustang. Yes, I did, and how glad I am.
Alice Billings is a resident of Ridgway, Colorado, a painter, an artist, an author and friend to animals everywhere.