Grimm's second lesson is one that I will be learning for the rest of my life -- and it was such a hard lesson at the beginning that he needed back-up. That's where Heather came in. With Heather acting as a sort of Rosetta Stone to bridge the gap between us, I learned that, first, I will never be done learning to listen. Second, Grimm has taught me so much more than just how to be a good partner for him; he's taught me to really, truly strive to understand. Every horse I've worked with since meeting Grimm has given me something new to listen to and try to figure out, something about what they need, what they fear, where it hurts, how they think, what they want me to tell their rider.
It would be impossible to list here every single thing I've learned since Grimm became my partner, but beyond the personal growth and improved grasp of dressage that I've acquired, there are four HUGE, foundational horsemanship points that have been driven home to me again and again over the past six years, until I can honestly say that I well and truly understand them. I wish every single rider could embrace them, too. Here they are:
1. Proper saddle fit is non-negotiable.
2. Correct use of the back is imperative.
3. Horses show pain in ways that aren't always obvious to humans.
4. A pain-free horse is a willing and happy partner.
As I continue with this blog, I will refer to these four points often because they are the basis for my philosophy. Once I really understood and accepted these four truths, the roadblocks between Grimm and me fell away, and our amazing partnership was able to flourish. Getting rid of his back pain was a four-year-long journey, and sometimes I thought we'd never get through it, but in the end, I had a pain-free, happy, athletic, successful dressage horse, and honestly, as hard as it was, I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. The universe sent me the horse I needed, to learn what I most needed to learn. Thanks to Grimm, I know that my job as a horseman is, as Stephen Covey's so-famous quote goes, to "seek first to understand and then to be understood."