You know how like 200 years ago, people were so flippant about the spelling of their names that they would just change them intermittently, and even spell names wrong on headstones and such? That is Itxa's life. Sometimes I will spell it with an x like it should be, sometimes I will spell it with a -ch, like it sounds. Sometimes I will call her Homer Simpson, because it eliminates the mystique. Also, because she loves donuts.
Curse you, Daniel, for introducing her to donuts.
The past several weeks have been difficult. When Itxara arrived to Keystone from Robyn's training program, she was PERFECT. We walked, trotted, cantered, took trail rides, crossed rivers and bridges, danced over poles, and I left every single day in total euphoria.
Then we went to Maryland for work, and she took two weeks off at my parent's ranch just getting to be a horse for the first time in several months, I'm sure. I was happy she got that time off. But for any number of reasons (my mother and I have theorized on literally hundreds of possibilities) she came back to Keystone a completely different horse.
Gone were the trail rides, the easy hacks, the respect. Every ride became a fight, and in fact, a fight not to get one or both of us hurt. Where trails had once been our happy place to unwind and where she could thrive with a clear mind, she suddenly decided the third day back that she was done with that, and about 20 yards down the road she violently wheeled around, reared, crow hopped, and wheeled again to head home. My confidence was shot, and my fear had paralyzed my ability to demonstrate authority. Without some help, I was cooked.
So, I invested in the equine equivalent of a drug intervention. I brought in every resource I had at Keystone to give input, got into 2x weekly le$$ons, and started reading, watching, and taking notes on every piece of training material I could get my hands on. Slowly but surely, my confidence is returning, and with confidence comes the ability to be the authority Itxa desperately needs. That being said, the horse from the first month has yet to return. I call that horse Itxa the First, and this is Itxa the Second. Or, Homer Simpson.
I have questioned my choices and my future with Itxa a lot in the past month. Because, frankly, that's the right thing to do. Any horseman not stopping to evaluate their partnership, their safety, and the best interest of the horse is no horseman at all. Horses are not children; you can in fact make new arrangements for them if you need to. And for that matter, if your child tries to kill you, you should probably consider new arrangements for them, too.
Recently as I watched her hand graze in the setting sun after another difficult but growing ride, I acknowledged that Itxa the First was a painful gift: a hint of where we could be someday and then some, but with a foundation of real respect and trust below the obedience. I acknowledged that while we are nowhere near there again, we are also no longer near where we bottomed out a month ago. Things ARE getting better. And thanks to patient trainers who understand that I don't just want to have someone else fix it for me, I am learning even more than she is.
And that was in fact the point of all this. If I wanted another "perfect" horse, I could have bought one of the "perfect" horses I was already falling in love with at Keystone. But I wanted the challenge, the learning experience, and the credit. I wanted the relationship that can only be earned, not the one given by default. And man, if I'm not a better rider for it.
Last night I was one of the only people at the barn, because my friends are up at the State Fair showing their guts out this week. I thought that the Fair would be the finale of my horse year. Instead, there will be no finale. Only quiet, consistent patience day in and day out as I follow the trail of hope I dreamed for the two of us from the first day I saw her.
Though I'm quite certain Itxa considers the finale a maple bar.