So after we discussed personality on the last day of our course, we met in our smaller groups. Lisa kept us in the group to discuss our plans for what we would work on when we went home, though after the first few of us, it was more about where we were all at emotionally, and several people were in tears.
We then reconvened as a large group, and John asked us to volunteer moments that stood out for us from the course. After the first few of us, it was more about where we were all at emotionally, and several people were in tears.
At the end of the session, the coaches talked about what they’d gotten out of the month, and after the first few, even some of them were in tears—including, briefly, the implacable John, as it was his last course before retiring as Head of Faculty.
And it did feel even more like everything was drawing to a close because our course was the last one at the ranch before it shut down for the winter. Pat and Linda had already left for Florida, as had many of their horses, and once the last of us were gone, it would be only a handful of interns and externs remaining to close camp.
Many in our course left after our farewell lunch, though Alex and I were staying over to leave the following morning. I knew I needed to get Lupin out and play with him in the afternoon since we hadn’t done anything with the horses that morning, but I was in an environmentally-induced funk and having trouble motivating myself.
I got him out and did a little rockslide down the path through the pens. Hmm, that was kind of cool. We ambled out to the Lower Savvy Park, and I had nothing in mind other than to move his feet and let him have a little fun. We had the Park to ourselves, and before I knew it, we were all over the place with Lupin enthusiastically trotting out and around me, climbing over things, just waiting for me to start playing in earnest.
I took him up on the offer, making use of whatever crossed our path as we did falling leaf and travelling circles all around. At one point I went up to some feed bowls to set them up as obstacles for change of direction on the circle, and Lupin lowered his head and picked one up. I asked him for it and he gave it to me, and we repeated this with a couple of the other bowls—the first time he’s picked anything up for me besides his Frisbee.
Then I picked up the pace and he cantered parts of figure 8’s around the bowls before we zoomed off to something else. We played on the bridge, the teeter-totter, and the pedestal, never staying at one thing long and doing a lot of fast playing in between. It was the first time since I’d been at the ranch that I’d had time to play with my horse without anything in particular to work on, but with all the new stuff we’d learned to play with, and with no one watching. We had a blast. We just . . . played.
Such a play session would be welcome at any time, but it was especially welcome that afternoon as I felt my earlier dejection melt away. I realized that some obscure, almost unconscious part of my brain had been thinking that, with everything I was leaving the next day, I had to leave Lupin as well, and I was immediately happy to realize that I didn’t, and then happier to realize that I was happy about that. A year earlier, I would not have been that sad to have left Lupin at my first clinic with Dan and gone home alone.
But Lupin and I (mostly I) have come a long way since then. Indeed, I’ve been quite certain for a while that Lupin has just been waiting for a worthy leader/playmate to emerge in me, and thanks to the seeds that Dan planted, which were then nurtured so well in the Fast Track course, I think I’m finally starting to get there.
Since my course I have, among other things, begun to get excited when I find holes that Lupin and I need to work on because they are, as Linda has said all along, interesting. It helps to have reached a kind of critical mass in my overall knowledge where I don’t feel as threatened by those holes any more, and where I feel I have at least a fair chance of being able to sort them out. Now I actually like holes because they give us a clear focus.
I have also become much less afraid of experimenting. Can we do this? Can we do that? And what does it matter if we can’t? It’s just information. But when we can it’s way more fun than doing the stuff we already know how to do over and over.
I think, too, that I got a slightly different rhythm in me during my month in Colorado. We rarely played on the ground in the ring—we were always out and around the ranch in fields and playgrounds. Somehow all that wide open space opened up an equally big space inside my imagination where it no longer seems strange to cover large amounts of ground on foot with your horse just to go somewhere different to play. And, of course, during our course we needed every second we had with our horses to try out all the new things we were learning, so we didn’t waste precious time just leading them from one place to another—we played all the way there starting at the gate out of their pens.
I carried home with me that sense of constant play and constant experimenting. Lupin and I play all the way in from the pasture, on into the stall (or trailer, or other location) to eat, down the road to the field, and wherever we go, we’re looking for new ways to play and new things to play with. It doesn’t seem at all strange to me now to walk all the way to the cow pasture to play with Lupin, and now that I’ve got the confidence to play with him in big open spaces, I love the enthusiasm he has out there and the challenge of seeing how much I need to do to keep his attention on me.
Between my willingness to experiment and my increased confidence, the time I spend with Lupin is completely different. I’m more prone to ask him a series of questions, “Can you do this? What if we try it this way? Okay, but now can you not do that and do this instead?” And I have a lot more faith now that we can still achieve our goals without constant drilling because everything we improve helps everything else improve too. So I think of as many variations as I can, and I stay only briefly on each thing before moving to something new.
And because we’re playing the whole time, I’m no longer thinking ahead to what all we need to accomplish that day. My focus is on the game. I am, like that last afternoon in Colorado, in the present, with nothing on my mind but looking for the thing that will give Lupin an opportunity to show me how smart he is—in a good way, so that he doesn’t have to prove it to me in a bad way.
There is, too, one final sense in which my month in Colorado brought me into the present. Over the past month that I’ve been home I've realized that the little part of me that was still missing my last horse has let go. I think that’s because I’ve finally realized what Lupin has given me.
While I was indebted to Limerick for taking care of me and being patient with me through the years of my greatest ignorance, I am now indebted to Lupin for continuing to push me to learn more and to be smarter, braver, and more athletic so that I can keep up with him. I am also indebted to him for pushing me only as much as I can handle, even if it took going to Colorado for a month to begin to learn how to handle it. And, of course, I am indebted to him for that very month, which has changed so much of the way that I approach things and shown me so much more of where I can go from here.
Lupin is a big equine adventure, taking me places I never dreamed that I would go.