You might have noticed that it was a bit quiet around Nazir and I lately. That’s because I had almost given up. If you have followed my journey, you know that looking for a way how to work with Nazir, and him being totally ok with it, is one of my main motivations. However, more and more I had the feeling that he just didn’t like doing anything. Hanging out yes, but not even going for a walk. All he seemed to want was staying with his herd and eating hay.
I was already looking for a new home for him, a place where I could retire him, where he could be in a herd and outside 24 hours a day. It just seemed like the reasonable thing to do, especially because Nazir really doesn’t like living in a box, and I don’t have an open stable close to my home that also has good training facilities.
But then, when I had found the right place and it was about making the last decision, the thought of loading him to the trailer and driving off with him almost broke my heart. My plan was to visit him every week. Still I was not able to do it.
When I bought Nazir he was worn out from the life in the riding school, at just 6 years of age. He “functioned” ok and everyone said he was a well-behaving horse. He was my first own horse and I began to read every equestrian book I could lay my hands on. I got interested in training methods, horses’ body language, and learning theory. And with my increasing knowledge I began to see that Nazir functioned on the outside but he was quite troubled on the inside.
They were subtle signs at first: tension around the eyes, didn’t want to come out of his box, stopped on the way to the arena and planted his feet, swishing his tail a lot. It was a bit inconvenient, but nothing I gave much thought to. Then Nazir started to be tense during riding. The solution of the riding teacher was firm rein contact and more driving with the legs. A few months later, Nazir started spooking a lot, and when that didn’t make me listen he also bucked. By then I realised that he was trying to tell me something and that I wasn’t on the right path.
Now I know that horses can escalate their behavior if we don’t listen. And that’s what Nazir did, to the point that I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
A health issue forced us to take a break. Nazir had two operations on his right knee and was on box rest for 4 months. As difficult as this time was, it signified a new beginning for us, too. I got to know him better than ever before. All the time we spent together, just hanging out. Me reading a book, sitting in his box. As one employee at the horse clinic said to me, “Boy, you must love this horse”. “Yes I do,” I said.
Then in the process of rehab, I read Bent Branderup’s book about the Academic Art of Riding and immediately knew that I had found what I had been looking for. I started groundwork with Nazir and he recovered very well. Physically, he looked better than ever. But mentally, we were not there yet.
By now, Nazir was fully himself. Not tired anymore, not intimidated, not “functioning”. He was strong, extremely curious, very extroverted, with clear opinions what he liked and didn’t like, very sensitive, and also with a very bad balance. This last point revealed itself once all the extreme stiffnesses that he previously had were gone.
During our trainings, he taught me about body language, energy and mental images. He moulded me into the trainer that I am now. He taught me the importance of a light, giving hand, of breathing, and of relaxation.
But he also showed me that he didn’t fully trust me with his body. I didn’t know enough yet. Slightly frustrated, I focused on working with Weto and later also on teaching. Sometimes I did something with Nazir, but I could see that he wasn’t really open to me, and so I just let him be for a bit.
However, I always feel incomplete without Nazir. He is “my” horse, it’s hard to explain. Deep down, I know he is there for a reason. He already taught me so much and it looks like there is still a lot more he has to say.
Nazir’s extreme reactions had gotten to a point where I had no more fun being with him. Whatever I tried, he seemed to say “no”. I also had a feeling that he didn’t notice how much I had changed, that he was still stuck in his old patterns. I know it sounds strange, but that was the impression I got.
In the Academic Art of Riding, our motto is “Two spririts want to do what two bodies can.”. And I was further away from having Nazir’s spirit than ever before.
When, after a lot of thinking and talking to my closest friends and my husband, I finally took the step of looking for a new home for Nazir, away from Weto and his friends at Olender, Nazir suddenly changed. I had already agreed with the owner of the place I wanted to bring him to and told her “I will just ask Nazir what he thinks”. In my mind, he would probably be happy about it: hay as much as he can eat, a small herd, freedom, no work.
I visited Nazir on his paddock and told him about the place. I sent him images, thought of the place as I had just seen it, and asked him whether he would like to live there. His answer could not have been clearer. He had wide open eyes and looked at me as if I were an alien. I wanted to bring him to the stable to brush him a bit, but he planted his feet and all the time looked back to the herd. I even took a video of that and sent it to this stable owner saying that I’m sorry, but it looks like my horse is not ready to leave. Seriously, he couldn’t have been more obvious. I actually couldn’t make him leave the paddock that day!
Next day, Nazir was different. He looked at me as if he understood that he had exaggerated it. He came to me on the paddock now, where before he was only interested in eating. He stood quietly next to me. He followed me when I left. I think he had felt that I was ready to sever the bond, because I didn’t know what else to do anymore. And not being able to reach him was too painful.
We are spending more time together again. When I feel him in the groundwork now, I can see how fragile he is. How easily out of balance. How easily excitable. How his emotions can boil up because of a tiny unfairness or unclearness from me. Nazir is extreme, but when he puts his heart into something, he is brilliant and so beautiful.
No wonder I couldn’t work with him before. I thought I had bought a bullet proof horse, a beginner horse, when in fact I had one of the most sensitive horses I have met so far. And I lacked all that knowledge about biomechanics and balance.
I am also different now. I am ready to take the next step, to learn from him again. Because I see him now, and I am open for his amazing being.
I made him a promise: No more “horsemanship”. What I mean by that is not more “ready solutions”. We have to find our own way of being together, a way which comes only from deep within ourselves.
As a horse trainer, it is not easy to share these thoughts. Many people have recommended that I buy myself an easier horse. And I will definitively buy one, hopefully soon. Not because I want to replace Nazir, but because I want to work with a young horse. But Nazir will stay. I need him to show me the next step of my horse journey. I am ready.
Photos by Magda Senderowska, November 2018.