The first month Mocha gained weight excruciatingly slowly, though after one month the vet said his improvements rendered him unrecognizable in the best way, he actually asked me which horse this was when I led Mocha out. I has so many people asking me how Mocha was, often followed with “When will you get to ride again?” I know everyone had the best intentions with that question, but my answer was always “When Mocha lets me know he’s ready.” I spent the first two months with Mocha just sitting in the pasture with him as he ate, or grooming him, learning quickly he was not ready to be asked for more than taking steps to health. This gave me a lot of time to observe him, and to notice that the relationship we were building was much deeper than it ever had been in the past. We spent a lot of time doing nothing together, much like horses in a herd together do, just holding space together. There is a relationship with a horse one can have that is completely inexplicable until you’ve been forced to spend months looking at each other eye to eye, seeing the world together from the same level, learning how and when to ask and when to just let your own will be.
Rebuilding trust and a relationship with neglected and abused horse has asked for more patience, quiet observation, sensitivity, and intuition than any other experience in my life, and continues to ask me to go deeper as I ask more of Mocha. After a couple rounds of bodywork and an appointment with a chiropractor, professional insight was given on how to help Mocha feel comfortable in his body again, after all, losing that much weight causes the entire skeleton to drop, and he has to learn how to carry his body again with weight on it. He needs to be comfortable enough to be able to pay attention to his body before he can pay attention to me, and we can begin to learn to dance together again (which is the foundation of riding: the exchange of energy and will). This works in much in the same way that if you are in a lot of pain, no amount of massage will be beneficial because you will not be able to relax enough for the process to be effective. Learning how to ask Mocha to pay attention, and sync up with me without any use of force, just my own energy and gentle touch, forces me to slow down in a way I never have been asked to before.