Handsome is as Handsome Does

. In emotional overwhelm I dismounted, wrapped my arms around Handsome’s golden neck, and wept tears of gratitude into his blond mane. I felt Dianne join our embrace, the three of us holding one another in heart celebration.

Hoofbeats pulse earth’s heartbeat

Rhythm of life in matter, incarnation,

Particles, strings, waves of potential

Flooding the energetic body

Thrumming through flexing feet,

Calves, thighs, and hips,

Root chakra humming,

Sacral chakra strumming,

Hara spinning, caressed and massaged   

By the Horse Heart I embrace.

Handsome is as Handsome Does

I am 76 years old and a passionate, lifetime horsewoman. In the past 8 years, I have been unable to get on a horse unassisted. The last two years I reconciled myself to the idea I would never ride again. Severe osteoarthritis was eating at my joints. After two complete shoulder replacements, a right hip replacement, a degenerative nerve to a muscle in my right hip (which cost me the ability to lift that leg and swing it over the back of a horse), and severe sciatica in my left leg leading to a looming option of back surgery, I decided to try physical therapy one more time. I was assigned a therapist who listened to me: a 75 year old woman bent over a cane, not able to step up and down from a street curb without help. Exercise by exercise, Logan began to bring my body back. In the beginning, it was exhausting, physically, emotionally, and energetically trying to negotiate pain limits, general weakness, muscles that just would no longer respond. Fear of pain got in my way. My belief that arthritis, gravity, and designed obsolescence was the natural way told me I was aging out. Logan never asked too much while continuing to encourage me to do the exercises, a little at a time, and gradually increasing the time and intensity of the workout. Yes, I know, common sense, but not all Physical Therapists are created equal. Some have a work out regimen, and that is what is followed, an irrefutable dogma. Finally, with Logan’s guidance, my body began to strengthen. I was able to put aside the cane; still careful at curbs, my dog and I could walk a flat mile. My Medicare-allotted time with Logan was running out. I reached inside for one more goal: to mount a horse unassisted. Without hesitation, he directed my exercise to mounting from the off-side, the right side of the horse. Faith in his knowledge allowed me to begin to believe that this goal would be attained. However, we ran out of time before the goal was realized. I continued the exercises, slowly reaching the pinnacle of standing in firm foundation on my right leg and swinging my left leg over the back of a chair. 

The second ingredient of realizing my goal was the horse. After my last horse, Sparkle, died, I sold, gave away, or tossed all the accouterments of horse ownership, including my mindset. Now I needed a safe partner to mount myself on: a safe horse, a safe human, and a safe environment. If she agreed, I knew just the horse/human combination: my long-time friend Dianne and her honest Haflinger gelding, Handsome. I reached out, and she responded with a resounding “Yes.” The day we chose for the “big event” was one of those perfect, midwinter, spring-like days we sometimes glory in the Sierra Nevada foothills. We met at Laughton Ranch in Jackson where Handsome is boarded. From the barn, we passed through a leaning pasture gate, negotiated a goose-grazed green pasture, passing a pond and horses standing in the sun. We went through another gate and walked a dirt road towards the out barns, round pens, and sand arena, all well-used. Handsome lived here in a big paddock. He was nibbling his grass hay when we arrived. He nickered to us, knowing the routine. Dianne collected the saddle, bridle, and brushes; then, together, we collected Handsome. We curried and brushed him at the hitch rail. Dianne saddled him and warmed him up in the round pen and then took him through his paces in the arena. There was no mounting block in the arena. My goal for unassisted mounting was not from the ground but from the solid base of a mounting block. It was back near the hitchrail. We walked back. Dianne aligned Handsome to the black steps and asked if I was ready.

This was the moment. I knew I was ready, and yet I trembled. Not my horse, not my saddle, not the left side. Remembering to breathe, I looked down on that neck, knowing it was his round barrel that I would swing my leg over and settle onto, not this short neck reaching out in front of me. Dianne counterbalanced the saddle, steadying the already steady Handsome. I put my right foot in the stirrup. I may have collected some mane, I remember reaching for it, and swung my left leg up and over. I felt the skim of the cantle on my calf, and then I was on. I was on. I was mounted on the living back of a horse. Somehow, I heard Dianne ask what I wanted to do. I wanted to feel the horse walking under me. I wanted to feel that earthly energetic connection. All I wanted was exactly what I was doing. And she let me do it, she facilitated the experience. I am so grateful. 

We didn’t over do. After riding, I dismounted, then mounted, rode, and dismounted again. I felt the rhythm of Handsome’s movement flow between my legs. That was all I needed. In emotional overwhelm I dismounted, wrapped my arms around Handsome’s golden neck, and wept tears of gratitude into his blond mane. I felt Dianne join our embrace, the three of us holding one another in heart celebration.

My friend Dianne, editor, writer, artist, energy worker, horsewoman.

Thank you!

Author: heartofahorsewoman

I am a lifetime horsewoman having dabbled in many different disciplines with many different breeds. The Natural Horsemanship training concepts changed my approach to horses and life. The trail I have traveled has led me to see horses in their spiritual context and the great exploration into mystery that Horse carries us so confidently.

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