I went through a really rough time a few weeks ago. There were so many days where I woke up and dreaded what lay ahead. Stress rose up, and happiness sunk down. I spent many hours on the phone with my mother in tears, feeling as though I could speak to no one else. It was a combination of so many things – feeling unsteady in my life, in my future, with my surroundings. Grief always rolled around near the beginning of September, and this was only confounded with my qualifying exam. Exasperated by small things – like a lame horse, a friendship lost, a feeling of desperation at the foreseeable failure. It was the closest to depression I had ever met.
I would sit in my truck, blast music through the speakers, and try to figure out why I was able to process this feeling of loss unlike others. Was it the compartmentalization that I had learned to cope with at a young age? When so many loved ones were ripped from me, and I figured out that life must go on even when you felt absolute pain. Was it my ability to find happiness in even the smallest things? In a beautiful sunset? Mind-numbing lyrics? A stroll through a sun-laden farm full of gorgeous animals?
Or was it my horse? I don’t mean this in the “horses are therapy” cliche that I have stated so often to others. Yes, they are good for the soul and a great way to spend our time. But more-so than this, the barn is an escape. It is 2 to 4, or maybe even 10, hours of metaphorical nothingness. There is no wireless access within these four walls, there is just the slow, mechanical, list of details that need to be accomplished. Soft country music playing from an old stereo. A halter is buckled, cross ties attached, reaching for a hoof, circling hair with a curry, brushing off dust and dander, wiping on fly spray, a saddle pad, and then another. The saddle is swung on, the girth attached. A thumb and then a bit in the mouth, and then a leg over. It is a mind-numbing burial of pain.
When you ride young horses, there is no ability to take the time to check your phone for the lack of a returned text message. There is no time to remember that you don’t quite comprehend that topic that you had studied for the last 8 hours. As Nixon grabbed the bit and pulled, I was unable to check Facebook to see if that lost friend had posted another status that I felt was targeted at me. While Mak struggled to lengthen his canter to the left, I focused only on my seat, and not on my life. All I had was myself, my horses, and the music that always plays from my phone.
That was my therapy. For blissful hours, I felt I had the excuse of no response. No interruption. No worries of the future. It was simply a leg yield, transitions, supple this way and supple that. Minutes drifted away, and time passed. I entered no shows during this time. I kept my horses to myself, and treasured that escape at the end of the day. There was no need to compound the stress that I was already experiencing. I started to tell myself as I woke up and dreaded the day, that at least at the end, there was this light at the end of the tunnel.
Things are now looking up. I passed my exam. I made it through another anniversary of my father’s death. I found true acceptance and love from the friends that held me through this time. And I got through the weeks of unhappiness through this escape. I am so blessed to have this in my life. These horses and the therapy that they give me.
I recently heard some criticism of my blog and it’s “message” and yet again felt the need to discontinue my writing. I don’t do well with criticism. I have finally acknowledged that this is one of the great stressors in my life. This is what forces me to do well in so many aspects of life, but it also leads to a fear of failure. But then I realized something. Just as these animals nurture me, so does my writing – acting as a way for me to convey the honesty of life. Social media is able to twist so much – allowing many to believe that all of us live in perfect bubbles of rainbows and butterflies. And this blog is my platform to acknowledge that although many things in the world around us are amazing and beautiful – there are also moments of extreme pain in between. And I hope that everyone is able to have that escape that I blog about. Whether it be through music, a beautiful sunset, or the therapy of these 4-legged creatures that we surround ourselves with. Take it. Grab it between your fingers. Breathe it in. Reassess where your sadness comes from. Compartmentalize. And then heal. For if I’ve learned anything from life, its that nothing is more healing than a good song, a beautiful sunset, and a long hack on a favorite horse.
I needed to read this. Thank you! 🙂
Yet again…beautiful Carleigh!
Please don’t let others’ opinions impede your desire to use this blog as an outlet. I very much enjoy reading your blog posts and I find you to be very eloquent in the expression of your views. Regardless of what some people may say or write in response to your posts, I hope you know that your messages do indeed reach a receptive audience. You have at least one here.
I loved your blog “Finding Balance.” I suffer from depression and have most of my life. My horse is truly my therapy and stress reliever. Thank you.
Love this! I find the same peace in training and spending time with my dogs.
Thank you for writing this, for the honesty in it. I hope you keep blogging and riding and that the pain from losing your friend continues to ease. I guess it’s time to go ride my own horse.