The Release; The most important cue that we can give our horse.
For years now she’s been known as the old horse; but she wasn't always. She was the first horse that I bought as a married woman. She was part of a dual horse package that my husband and I went to look at. I wanted a gelding and I was partial to a solid faced horse. She had a blaze and I knew she was mine from the moment I saw her. My husband by the way bought the solid faced gelding.
Her name was Honey Bee and she was so much more than just my horse. She was my sanity and my stability as I navigated through the early years of being a wife and mother. My escape from the chaos and responsibilities of a young family my solace through the sometimes turbulent teen years and beyond, and the best date nights always included her. It was through her that I had the privilege of introducing, my children and then my grandchildren to the wonders of all that is a horse; she was ever patient as tiny fingers stroked with awe her velvet soft muzzle, and she was always willing when they pleaded for just one more ride.
Honey Bee and I must have logged a million trail miles, together we climbed mountains and crossed rivers. Together we discovered the show ring. She was the horse that I went through the CANTRA and CEF programs on. And together we got older. It didn't matter what I wanted to do or learn she was always more than agreeable. Because of her good nature and willing attitude I also used her as a lesson horse. I will admit that she wasn't always perfect and that she occasionally tried to get into a gait that we liked to call, ‘Honey Bee Home Speed,’ even so she was always a dependable mount and a trustworthy teacher for even the most nervous of novices. But more than any of these things, she was my horse.
How do you say good bye to horse like that, to a friend, to a partner? You don’t, you can’t, at least I couldn't. Even as she got older and older, and was no longer a ‘using horse,’ it was enough for me just to hear her soft morning knicker of hello. It was a privilege to be able to give her all of the extra care that an old horse requires, supplements, blankets and vet care. But the day came as it inevitably will for those of us who are blessed with the privilege and with the pain of owning an old horse, the day came when the supplements weren't able to keep the weight on and the blankets just weren't warm enough. So after being part of each other’s life for more than the 30 years, the day came when the Vet said, that the greatest kindness that I could show her now would be to release her from the confines of her ailing old body.
I have always ridden my horses with a release cue. The release from pressure is the way we are able say to our horse, “You got it right.” The release is our way of sayings and their way of understanding, “Thank you - you have done the right thing.” The hard part is knowing when to release- if we do not release when we have that give - we can at best inadvertently teach our horse not to trust us- and at worst teach them not to obey us. From the first day of the relationship to the last, the release is the most important communication between a person and a horse. So on a beautiful October morning when the sky was blue and the sun was shining I rewarded Honey Bee with her final release cue setting her lovely spirit free. It was the last ‘thank you’ for a job well done that I was able to give her. –
Good job Honey Bee, thank you and walk on.