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Turning Over the Reins - Page 2

Doug taught Alex how to "join" with Buddy. She walked him in circles with a short rope. He told her that whenever Buddy tested her by stopping, she should give a gentle tug, and if that didn't work, she should tug more firmly. Soon, she found the zone in which both she and Buddy felt self-reassured and knew who was in charge.

With the proper relationship established, Alex dropped the rope and used just hand signals to get Buddy walking, cantering, and reversing directions. Then she rode him bareback around the pen, with her arms stretched out to her sides and her eyes closed, feeling his rippling muscles with her thighs and communicating to him with gentle leg pressure. She was growing to understand the power and sensitivity of horses, and her own strength and skill.

Then Doug invited me into the pen to take hold of the rope and walk Buddy around with Alex on his back. I was worried. What if Buddy sensed my nervousness, got skittish, bolted, and bucked Alex off? Sure enough, Buddy started to nicker and balk. "Don't be scared," I said to Alex, recognizing that the anxiety in my voice completely belied my words.

"I'm not scared," she said, clearly annoyed at me.

Feeling rebuked and humiliated, I realized that, in trying to deal with my nervousness by trying to reassure her, I was making things worse for both of us. I looked helplessly at Doug, who laughed. It was at that instant that I understood the power of equine-assisted family therapy.

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