Our family has been horseback riding many times but never in Western North Carolina. We recently went on a trail ride on a 550-acre farm in the mountains of Marshall, NC about a half hour west of Asheville. As we rode for those two hours winding through the mountains, navigating around cattle, observing sheep in the fold and taking in the majesty of the mountains I was overwhelmed with emotions and found myself asking questions relative to the parallels to life and horseback riding.
Do I take on weight that is not mine?
I couldn’t help but be in awe of the strength and the load bearing capacity of these animals. I found myself somewhat burdened by their burden of us. I could not help but think of the people in our lives that we impose our burdens, our issues and our weight on. These animals are trained and outfitted to take our weight and so much of their life is dedicated to someone else’s weight. Think about the saddle we place on them. That saddle is designed so we can comfortably and safely place our weight on the horse. I wonder how many people we are guilty of “saddling up” so they can bear our weight? Are we causing other people to spend their lives carrying our weight? Perhaps you will think of others but here are some examples I came up with - imposing our career goals on our children; bringing our unresolved issues into a relationship; not completing our part of an assignment; not cleaning up after ourselves; lack of planning that creates an urgency for someone else; failing to honor our commitments and then leaving someone to figure a way of taking up the slack; assuming the whole reason for a person’s existence is to help us and be there for us; placing unfair expectation on others; emotional neediness where we always need to be the center of attention; generations of welfare and unemployment. May we be mindful of the weight we place on others and more sensitive to doing all we can to reduce that burden.
Do I stop enough to take care of myself along the way?
As we rode along the winding trail thru the mountains there were many watering holes along the way. Instinctively the horses knew when they needed to stop and drink. I was impressed by the thoughtful and deliberate placement of these watering holes. It reminded me that on this trail called life we need to be intentional about our rest and about maintaining our health so that we can complete the journey. It also showed me that someone else was concerned about the rest and refreshment of the horse. What person have we actively shown a concern for their rest and refreshment and have we actively played a role in ensuring they receive it? Are we helping with a chore, taking responsibility for an assignment, cooking a meal, stepping into help so that someone else can stop, drink, rest and renew themselves? Our lips must meet up with our actions and we should not just say we are concerned for that person but rather by our deed proves it.
Do I let people know how I really feel?
As we rode upon the trail on occasion depending on how steep the incline or rocky the trail the horse we begin making a snorting, neighing noise or his ears would move a certain way. The horse was talking to me. Albeit I do not know horse language I did recognize a message was attempting to be communicated. As these horse messages began being shared I found myself being gentler, more sensitive, more aware of my surroundings, talking to my horse and petting my horse. If this works for a horse how much for us? Perhaps people are not more gentle, conversational and considerate of us because we have failed to communicate how we really feel. The people that matter most in our lives may have many upstanding characteristics but mind reading is not one of them. I invite us to consider developing our own horse language with one another – words, gestures and expressions to help those we love clue in on how we are feeling and give them an opportunity to exhibit their real care and concern for us.
Do you have additional thought on life and horseback riding? If so, feel free to share them with us.