Beautiful Amber and I met on a farm in North Carolina. When preparing to begin lessons I rode a Quarter Horse. I then transitioned to 15 1/2 hand Amber who is almost pure Thoroughbred. She is beautiful.
When I first began visiting and riding her, I was still recovering from a serious illness. After visiting Mayo Clinic, multiple Duke physicians and sending blood away to multiple institutions, I am informally diagnosed with a rare autoimmune illness. My illness was a neurologic illness that manifested itself psychologically as well as physically. The height of my sickness lasted a few months, until I received treatment that seemed to work wonders for my body. This was only the beginning of my healing. I was damaged in so many ways, losing friends, creating rough memories, and facing a lack of spark for life.
My girl, Amber, entered my life when I was dealing with strong medicine amounts, being self-consciousness about my psychological upheavals of the past, and greatly lacking confidence. The only connection I had with the outside world apart from her was a few hours a week that I would spend volunteering at a local charity, with my immediate family, and an occasional letter or visit with a friend or two every month or so. Often these would be in very controlled environments very different from the all-encompassing heart-to-hearts I was used to.
During my first summer with Amber, I was very silent and afraid. I was burdened by mental confusion and did not know how to handle instruction during lessons. With her, though, I felt instant connection. I would stroke her continuously while riding, feeling her muscles move and feeling the security of her strong legs. I rejoiced in being a brunette with her and saw myself through her eyes of acceptance and love. I brought her a carrot each week (often to the grimace of my instructor). She stole my heart.
My goal for the first few months of sessions was just to enjoy myself and try to develop more self-confidence. I had ridden horses almost every year since the age of 10 as a special treat on my birthdays. Now I got to visit my girl every week.
I continued to ride into the fall and was assigned a new instructor. At first, this disturbed me, but I was ready for a change of pace looking back. My first instructor was a gentle elementary school teacher-type who encouraged me. My new instructor was one who challenged me to reach outside of my bounds in riding. Looking back, changing instructors made me feel Amber was an even more integral part of my life who would not desert me. Other people would come and go, but she was always there to be ridden, accept a carrot, and nuzzle me with a spunky shove.
Once, another horse injured her mildly, and I realized that she could face injury, too. I had a motherly concern for her and the whole week I was away from her, would be up at night wondering if she would be okay. She at that point became my friend and confidante. I now told her how I was doing trying to be outside of earshot of any instructors. I would talk to her with a voice that I feel suited her- a pretty, singsong voice. Her responses were snorts. Yet, they were so beautiful to my ears!
I gradually gained the confidence to progress to trotting for short periods. The moment that posting became second nature, I felt very accomplished. I could truly ride a horse! It was a skill that I was so glad to possess and was obtained through loving encouragement. I then did dressage patterns, challenging my memory for the first time in just over a year. This, alongside a community college course, were some of the first steps in my intellectual recovery. I can’t say that I was glad to be using my brain again, but now am so thankful that I had stepping stones with such soft moss in-between. Amber would complete the tasks I assigned her, working with me as I instructed and took the lead. This gave me extreme confidence in my ability to care for and direct the actions of another.
Just towards the end of this last spring session, I cantered with Amber. The wind in my hair! It was flying and brought me such joy to exercise her in a way that was good for her legs, as well as challenge myself to do something that I was completely uncomfortable doing. It took loop after loop to finally be able to tell her with her surety of my command. It was a great triumph at the end of a full year of riding Amber.
As I have now changed instructors again to a true cowgirl, I spend a lot of time with Amber grooming and connecting with her. I have learned to tack and untack her as well as lead her around the ring. I bathed her for the first time this last week as it was over 90 degrees. The salt came off of her body and I was grounded in physicality. She worked hard for me and I love her.