The Meaning of Grace

Yesterday, Beany was sick and Rachel and I divided up her teaching commitments. I taught C – a barely verbal young man whom I hadn’t worked with before. We tacked up Panzur and brought him to the arena.  At the mounting block C looked down at the horse and he hesitated.  I moved to help him but something made me stop. It’s my job to figure out what his hesitation was. Was he scared?  Was he unsure of me? He didn’t seem anxious. I watched. 

Turns out, he wasn’t scared at all. C let the air touch his face, he took the opportunity to bask in that moment just before you get on the horse – that moment before you engage in something exciting and somewhat unsure.  I could see him process and feel that moment – something I’ve never done. 

In that instant, I learned.

I learned that I’d been cheating myself and my students and even my horses of this possibility of reflection, of the few seconds tobutterfly center oneself and settle into the space and into the moment. It’s like saying “grace” before a meal – just giving thanks and being present. After 47 years on this planet, a young man showed me what giving grace means.  

C got on when he was ready and off we went. He blissed out. He felt every move of Panzur’s body. He giggled, he trilled, he hopped up and down.  He closed his eyes and slung his head and burst out with happy noises. I know in my heart that giving him the time to prepare himself was a key to his joyful state.

 I started to engage and to teach and again I stopped.  I told his mom – I’m just going to keep this horse going and let C enjoy the ride. She and I shrugged our shoulders and smiled from ear to ear.  His rapture continued and it affected the horse, Rachel, who was working another horse in the arena,  his mom and me. I found myself thinking about that pony ride I was on as a little kid where my heart felt like it was going to burst with joy because I was on a horse riding in a park.

Afterward C and I exchanged words and he allowed the dogs to mill around him without panic.  I told him that we might have rain over the weekend (his next scheduled ride) but that the Holiday break was coming up so we would arrange something for him to ride.  I know he understood me – if not my words, my intention that he would be at the ranch riding again soon. I’m grateful to C for reminding me how much I love riding. I’m grateful to his mom for her trust in me explore how far we could go with it. I’m grateful to our kind horses who make it all possible. I’m grateful I can make a difference. I’m grateful for a moment of Grace.

Christian Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School greets Square Peg’s “Stan”

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