If there’s one piece of advice I’ve heard most often lately, it’s probably this one: Trust the process.
As a chronic worrier and control enthusiast, trusting anything in particular doesn’t come easily to me. I recognize that I have a tendency to give up on things when I can’t jump directly from “starting out” to “end result.” And since I stepped out of the world of more traditional horsemanship and into the world of natural horsemanship, I’ve had to adjust to some pretty major shifts in thinking. Like, for instance, I would’ve never dreamed that I’d take my third ride on my green-broke horse as a half-day trail ride. Up a mountain. In a rope hackamore. But after having been through the process of training her myself in her groundwork, and then watching 3-Star Parelli Professional Terry Wilson start her under saddle, and having seen techniques that were sometimes counter-intuitive to me turn her into a different, more confident horse… I was finally ready to trust to process.
Terry is a big believer in the power of the trail ride. He’d only put a handful of rides on Juno before taking her out on the trails near his property, and it was plain even to me what a positive effect it had on her development. After my first two rides on Juno, both in Terry’s round pen and neither of them terribly inspiring for me — in the sense that they revealed to me what an awful rider I am — I was certainly ready for something different. Terry thought a day on the trail would be just the thing; he’d ride Juno to begin with while I rode one of his lease horses, Jane, and if all went well we’d switch and I could ride my own horse. Terry’s wife Lvonne and our friends Laura and Bridgette joined us with their own horses, so we had a pretty decent-sized group, and the weather was beautiful, cool and overcast.
We hauled in to West Fork, scraped the previous day’s mud off the horses and got everyone tacked up, then we headed right out on the trail. You wouldn’t have known that Juno had only done all of this once before — and on that occasion they’d had to turn back after only a mile or so, because Juno’s unshod feet were a bit sore on all the rock. This time, Terry and Juno went right out in the lead, and she didn’t flinch away from tight horse-high vegetation, bridges, or even the singing cowboy on her back. (Hey, everybody likes a good Canadian sea shanty.) In short order, Terry proposed that we switch and I get up on my own horse for our first trail riding outing together.
We covered eight miles and six bridge crossings. We rode near the front of the pack, in the middle, and all the way in the back, but it was all the same to Juno. She naturally prefers to give the other horses plenty of room, so there was no need to constantly remind her to keep her distance from the horse in front of her, and she didn’t feel the slightest urge to rush home when we turned back. She was, in short, the perfect trail horse, and gave me the gift of the most enjoyable trail ride I’d ever experienced. And though I’ve suffered all kinds of confidence and fear issues when it comes to riding horses, when I was out there on the back of my own horse, in the middle of the wilderness, I didn’t feel even a moment’s worth of fear or doubt. Even though I’d had a bit of an emotional explosion just a few days earlier, I trusted Terry, I trusted my horse, and I trusted the process that had brought us to where we were. I trusted that it would keep taking us further.
Progress is often an uncomfortable thing. You don’t know yet what to do, or how to do it, or whether you’ll ever get it. You’re outside of your comfort zone — sometimes way outside of it — and sometimes you’re compelled to take risks to keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean you have to take up daredevil riding or do something that’s unsafe for you: it just means that you might need to put your pride on the line or sacrifice your usually zen-like emotional state for awhile. But with the right knowledge, the right attitude and the right support you can do things you never dreamed you’d do — even if it’s just taking your horse on a trail ride.
Terry Wilson is a 3-Star Parelli instructor living in Pagosa Springs. He teaches lessons and clinics all over the US and Canada, and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of his knowledge and general awesomeness by booking him for a clinic. Also check out his website and his Facebook page! This post is a follow-up to The Long, Dark Horseback Ride of the Soul; if you haven’t read that post yet, you might want to have a look. You know, just to see what I’m like when I’m a bit less emotionally balanced.