Friday, August 30, 2013

A Light Rein

Some years ago - more years than I am comfortable admitting - I took some equitation lessons at a local riding stable. 

The instructor taught us, among many other things like flexibility and balance, about the importance of maintaining a "light rein." 

She said that when it came to holding the reins, beginners made two very common mistakes: keeping a tight rein, or a loose one. This had nothing to do with the grip of the rider on the reins themselves, but on the tension between the rider's hands and the horse's mouth ... through the reins. Keeping the reins too tight would end up with the animal not paying any heed to important direction from the rider because it would constantly be pulling at the bit. Keeping them too loose would not alert the rider to the mood of the horse, and would leave him or her unprotected if the mount were to shy away from something and jump sideways, or just take off running! 

The goal, she said, was to keep a "light rein." You could actually feel the movement of the horse's mouth through the reins when you were holding them correctly. Then, the reins became a means of communication back and forth between rider and mount. 

What I learned in an indoor riding ring, I have been able to apply to many aspects of living over the years: living life day to day and navigating relationships with people and with possessions.

Thanks to Tina Phillips for her photo,
"Girl On A Pony"
Source -

Since I've entered a new lifestyle of letting go, one of the things that has been a challenge for me has been knowing the difference between letting go and abandonment, between taking care of the ones you love and being compelled to engage in the dangerous occupation of "care-taking" (that is, a cleverly disguised method of controlling someone through continually rescuing them and making them dependent on your help). 

As I was pondering this fine line - truly a balancing act in which the boundaries keep changing according to the circumstances - the lesson I learned in the riding ring came to my rescue. 

A light rein... that's the answer. If there's two-way communication, if no one person feels obligated to the other, then that's the balance I need to seek. 

That means the rules change according to the situation. Rescuing (in an unhealthy way) in one circumstance is actually having compassion or showing mercy in another. Letting go is appropriate in one situation but it might be abandonment in another. The secret to knowing which one is in how it "feels" - it's okay to help someone, and for them to feel gratitude, as long as each person maintains his or her self-respect and doesn't feel "beholden" or "obligated" to the other. When that doesn't exist - it doesn't feel right.

It's okay to trust that feeling of "rightness."

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