Life Lessons from the Four-Footed Guru: Leave your Burden at the Door

Ginger, the four-footed guru I wrote about last fall is still teaching me lessons.  I don’t mean how-to-ride-a-horse lessons, I mean how to live my life lessons.

Riding lessons may, at first glance, seem like any other hobby: I get on a horse, do as my instructor tells me, get corrections when I’m off-balance and kudos when I get it right. Looked at this way, the horse is really just a vehicle, one that runs on hay and molasses treats rather than fossil fuel.

Unlike a car, however, this vehicle is a 1500 pound prey animal capable of bucking, rearing, bolting and generally going in directions that I may not want to, and often at the last minute.  Let me tell you something though: a horse is never just a vehicle. My horse is my partner, my teacher and a mindfulness instructor like no other.  Let me give you an example.

When I arrive at the barn, Ginger will tell me immediately, if I’m too wound up. On days when I am running behind or bring a work problem with me through the barn doors,  my inward tension will express itself in the way I groom Ginger, brushing her too quickly and harshly, with thoughtless force instead of a soft hand. She’ll pin her ears and whinny at me. Or she might just turn her head back and look at me, as if to say “How ‘bout ixnay on taking your irritation out on me? How about ixnay on the irritation altogether? And did you bring treats?”

She’s right, of course. I’ll drop the brush from her side, look her in the eye, say “thank you”, and give her a good, long scratch on the neck. Then, I’ll pick up the brush and begin again, grooming her coat with the care and attention she deserves, using a soft brush on her face, picking rocks and mud out her feet and combing her mane until it’s glossy. After all, she’s about to carry me around on her back for an hour. The least I can do is treat her with kindness and respect.  And, as befits any worthy guru, I treat her with carrots, apples and molasses cookies, too.

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