The Heart of A Rescue: Part 2

Christina Mitchell, Business Manager • cbmitchell16@ehc.edu

At ten years old you think you can do anything, tackle any challenge. You get bored easily and don’t think about stopping and enjoying life before it passes you by. At least, that’s what it was like for me.

At ten years old I switched from being a western rider to being an English rider because I wanted to learn how to jump. I wanted to grow up and become a hot shot horse trainer and world-class competitor. I wanted a “real” show horse even though I loved Ruben dearly. I didn’t think he could take me where I wanted to go, I had no idea how much he had left to teach me. I had no idea that I was sitting on a finely bred horse who had been a big show horse in his younger days. I didn’t look beyond the surface.

You see, if you really pay attention to your horse they can speak to you. It may sound a little crazy but it’s true. I loved my horse then but I hadn’t quite learned to listen to him yet, no barn had ever put much stock in paying that much attention to the horse.

I’m not going to write about some big epiphany I had when I realized that I needed to listen to the horse more than I needed to keep cantering or take that next fence because it wasn’t just one moment. It was gradual, over the course of years. I can, however, tell you how that transition began.

Weekend 4-H horse camp, early October. It was my first outing with Ruben and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to spend the weekend riding him and working with several different trainers. I thought I had brought a western horse to that camp, I had no idea that he had been trained for both english and western in his younger days.

I spent that first day, Saturday, getting bucked every time Ruben took a stride in the trot. Needless to say we were quickly singled out for one-on-one lessons. The first trainer to work with us had known Ruben when he was younger and it was evident that those times had not been the best for him. I had never seen my horse so upset, but when she got on him matters only got worse. Three different trainers got on him, all trying to “teach him a lesson” and none of them lasted very long. I remember thinking how mad they were making him.

Those big brown loving eyes looked at me and I knew that he was scared of them. I knew they weren’t paying attention to what he was trying to tell them and he was mad. Within ten minutes they handed the reins back to me, having made no progress with him. I still didn’t know how to listen to him, but I learned something that weekend. What I learned culminated with a broken hand when I fell off at the end of camp. The fault was my own. Ruben would always take care of me, I just had to learn to listen to him.

To this day I have never known another horse to be so expressive as Ruben. He loves those closest to him and he holds a grudge also. Horse people say that horses don’t love, horses don’t hate, but I know differently. I still have a great deal to learn but I have learned enough to value what a horse is feeling and trying to tell me above anything else. All of that is thanks to Ruben.

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