By Makena Echenique
Ever since I was roughly 3 years old, I’ve been around horses. I’ve been in this lifelong team with horses for a long time, starting with my first pony named Spanky. Granted, I didn’t quite understand what I was doing on the back of the horse until age 8. I began understanding that riding a horse was a 2-way conversation with a lesson horse named Prince. Prince made it very clear when I was just flat out wrong, but sometimes Prince liked to take me for a ride every now and then. Riding isn’t a sport where you can go solo. Even if you’re the only rider in the ring, you’ve got a teammate with you. That teammate is your horse. The communication you have with your teammate isn’t necessarily verbal, either. A majority of the time, you communicate with your 2,000 pound or plus teammate in complete silence.
With my chestnut mare, Mikhailey, teamwork has been a very prominent subject in our relationship. Mikhailey is a very kind and sweet mare, but is not afraid to put me in my place or even test me a little, just for precautionary measures. In these times of difficulty, it is a give and take procedure. It may take a few lessons for me to understand what she’s telling me or for her to realize what I’m telling her. I cannot expect to be the only person participating in this silent conversation because with that mentality, I cannot change. If I dictate the conversation, my team will face consequences of a never-ending argument. I need to take the words and advice from my trainer and horse if I want to improve with my team. But, on the other hand, Mikhailey cannot dictate the conversation either because that will lead to consequences as well. In order for this dispute to be solved, all sides of the story need to be taken into account and negotiating must be done. It is important to find if it’s simply operator error and I need the advice of my trainer to fix my mistakes, or if my horse is pulling my leg. Recently, we’ve had many conversations without saying a word… or neighing in Mikhailey’s case. We’ve been learning some new procedures and tricks, I like to call them, to improve our performance. As I ride my mare, listening to our coach/trainer’s instruction, I can almost hear Mikhailey talking to me through her body language. Most of the time she’s asking, ‘Makena, what are you doing?’ But with the guidance of our fabulous trainer, we finally understand each other for the time being. Without this silent conversation and teamwork, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Mikhailey and I have been through our fair share of bad classes, and good classes. We’ve had our share of arguments, days where our ride was as perfect as it gets, and lessons where it wasn’t the best or the worst. And in our future, there are bound to be more of these metaphorical ‘valleys and mountains’ or ups and downs that we’ll come upon. It is teamwork that will get us across those valleys and up those mountains whenever they arise. It is teamwork that creates the unbreakable bond between rider and horse.
About the Author Makena Echenique is the 2016-2017 Region 3 Youth Secretary