I get in cars with strangers. That’s me by the airport curb with a suitcase. If things are going well, there’s someone driving through traffic, wondering if she’ll recognize me. Then we are both relieved that I look exactly like myself.
There are pre-conceived notions on each side. Expectations and anxieties. What if I show up and throw a fit, demanding to eat only green M&Ms? What if the riders are expecting a trainer who doesn’t put horses first?
It’s the absolute weirdest sort of blind date. And it lasts for two whole days. Sometimes three.
Like most clandestine meetings these days, it starts online. You might see a photo or read a description of what I offer. If it’s interesting, you might contact me by email with an inquiry about what I charge. A round trip ticket is required, too.
I’m not looking for a long-term relationship.
This is how scheduling a clinic works normally and it’s eventually followed a two-hour flight to Washington state or Wisconsin. I’m always grateful when someone takes the chance and hires me for a clinic. I’m dependable and I work hard, but when you think about it, organizers put their reputations on the line. If it’s your barn, then the clinician has your stamp of approval.
New Zealand trip started the same small way. I got an email that asked if I would consider a trip there. Consider? Like it would be a hardship? I said yes, if there was interest, and kept the email handy. A month later I got a second nibble, and took it as a good omen. After introducing Lisa and Karin online, they discovered they lived in the same town, Waimate, population 3000. Now my favorite place in New Zealand, for obvious reasons.
We set a rough date in February, the dead of winter in Colorado and summer in New Zealand. Even better.
Then Bex signed on, and then Tracey, Jane, and Kim. They all worked together and carefully listed expenses, booked locations, and organized details. Did I mention they worked together? All I did was say Yes.
And buy a plane ticket. Friends told me it was a risk to invest money when I didn’t know if the clinics would fill. I do usually ask for a deposit, but they took a risk to invite a stranger from almost 8000 miles away to meet their horses. It seemed fair.
It was an amazing series; five clinics that spanned the length of the country. I was privileged to meet wonderful horses and riders with a true passion to understand them. After a holiday, the series of clinics in Australia begin in March and I doubt that would be happening without this intrepid group taking the risk first.
What started as a risk ended in trust.
My clinics are about communicating as clearly as our horses do, about trust and partnership in their equine language.
Most of us think of fear when we talk about trust. We might start in the saddle with questions about personal safety, but the real trust is still beyond that. If we finally believe horses are fully sentient, then we have to let them choose to be with us. We must trust their intelligence and let them volunteer to do their part. Positive thought is crucial when transforming risk into trust.
The value of taking a risk might be one of the best things we learn from horses. In that light, I want to thank Lisa and Karin, for taking the giant leap of faith to invite me, so that I could take the leap of faith and come. Thanks to Bex, for her special genius; thanks to Tracey, Kim, and Jane, for all the detailed fussy tasks involved in clinic preparation. Nicole and Katrina for giving me a soft landing at night. Thanks to all the participants who trusted their horses to my teaching and most of all, thank you to the beautiful horses of New Zealand. I’m in love all over again. This has been one of the truly high experiences in my life.
*An update on the drama of not understanding my own native tongue. I continue to try to learn Kiwi-speak and Maori. It’s been explained again and again but now when I try to pronounce words it’s mainly to amuse my new friends. Between my hearing loss and the accent, I still have no idea what’s being said around me.
Except for the horses. Even 8000 miles from my home barn, they have no accent at all. It’s something to trust.