Sometimes, the stars align and a new course simply takes off. Everything falls into place. This week, that happened.
We had a Phase One with an entirely new group of veterans. Most of them had never sat on a horse before, and they did not really know what to expect. By this morning, they were riding out into the sunny Dee valley, as relaxed with their horses as if they were cowboys on the range.
Usually, at the beginning of a course we take things in small steps, working on the ground, letting the veterans get to know their horses, understand the equine mind, become easy with every aspect of care and handling. The riding starts in Phase Two. This lot were so quick and enthusiastic that we had them saddling up on the third day.
‘I just wanted to ride,’ said one veteran. ‘I wanted to get on and go. I didn’t really see the point of doing stuff on the ground. But then I went in the round pen and it felt like…’ He stopped, searching for the word. ‘Like I was really bonding with this horse, understanding this horse. By the time I was riding in the arena, I wanted to get off and go back to that round pen. I did not think that getting to see the way their minds work would be such a big thing, but it was.’
Another veteran, who carries a severe physical wound, was smiling as if all his Christmases had come at once. ‘I didn’t know that horses would make me feel so happy,’ he said. ‘Just being with them. I didn’t know that I would feel like this.’ The smile blazed out into the bright air.
When everything comes together in this way, the humans coming together as a team, the horses happy and relaxed, everyone working well and learning well and wanting to go forward, you can feel it the moment you walk into the yard. The atmosphere is palpable, a lovely combination of ease and excitement.
We had two veteran mentors this week, old friends of HorseBack, and they too were working at the top of their game. The Scottish sun shone, spring was in the air, and there was a shining sense of hope and possibility. We could not have wished for more.