I called her Soul - all mind and will and emotion parading in sassy horse flesh. She exuded optimism though she stood in an overcrowded field with jagged wire and rusty nails, unsafe drinking water and bitter fodder. Where older horses hung their heads and more phlegmatic peers watched from a distance Soul danced over to say 'good-day'.
I bought her on the spot.
In retrospect I think it was a good choice of names. Considering the composite human consists of body, soul and spirit, this filly mirrored my soul. Raw, untamed and wilful. And although neither of us knew it at the time we were both about to engage with our trainers.
For the sake of accuracy I must admit I had already met my Trainer -although when He allowed me to dance into His life I was sure His name was Comforter.
And thus begins the story of the four-legged filly with the chestnut mane who fought and bucked and kicked against the breaking-in; the training process, with a mirror image intensity of her human owner.
The analogy began in the round yard.
"That's good. Keep her circling on a long rope until she swings her head in and looks directly at you. No need to do anything more until then. She'll get the message."
The trainer sat comfortably on my round yard rail and spoke in the unhurried monotone of the Australian bush. My new Christian family had recommended him and although I liked what I saw I wasn't getting much feedback.
I was the wordy type.
I also expected the trainer to do the work. Instead he insisted I learn since he already knew.
Well that is yet to be proven.
Meanwhile my filly tossed her head and snorted and arced up but I kept her moving forward at a canter around and around, focusing on the task.
She steadfastly refused to swing her front my way.
At least her ears are forward I was no horse whisperer but seeing pricked ears signified 400 kilograms of partial cooperation rather than…wilful lunacy.
Still, my disappointment over the filly's resistance was great.
The trainer, named Joshua, hadn't shared his opinion of the horse with me. This fact grated - so I asked him.
Joshua took a long time to answer – which also grated because the filly's magnificence was obvious – then he replied economically,
"She's put together well; probably strong willed and very intelligent; and she's a red head."
He grinned and ran his eyes over my own chestnut coloured hair. "She's fiery."
That was a week ago. And Soul was everything Joshua surmised. Disillusionment wrapped itself around my heart with every circle the filly made.
I haven't said a thing.
"You're having a conversation about Soul. She's distracted."
The filly had slowed to a trot although one ear was turned.
"I didn't think it would be this hard." I glanced over my shoulder towards Joshua hoping for sympathy, but his face was neutral. I tried again.
"I wish you'd come in here and do it. I'm struggling badly. "
"Shhh." It came out softly; reassuringly. "Concentrate. You're doing fine."
But I had so many questions. Why was it taking so long? Why had we not progressed to another lesson if this wasn't working? Would he ever give up and say "you're both untrainable – I 'm leaving?"
I'd no chance to ask. Although Joshua ended each session by entering the ring to run his hands lightly over the horse from head to toe and check her feet; he'd leave immediately.
And most times the mare turned to follow him to the gate; like a puppy.
I threw a mutinous look over my shoulder towards Joshua. Our eyes met but he shrugged and smiled so I turned my attention toward the horse and tapped her rump. She shot forward like a rocket.
"You're just a drama queen Soul", I laughed and tried not to dwell on my own histrionics of yesterday when I'd badly wanted to threaten the horse with a tin overcoat.
My fingers closed over the lunge rope as if to protect her from the thought of her ever ending up as dog food.
The horse felt the fingers, planted four feet in a halt and turned her body towards me. Then with a nicker she dropped her head and walked into the centre of the ring. To me; just me.
"Shhh; no need for a word. She trusts you."
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