Looking Hope in the Eye

At various times throughout the years I have encouraged my clients to examine their relationship with hope. “I hope we meet our benchmarks this year.” “I hope I have the courage to do this or be that.” “I hope things get better.” “I hope I meet my soul mate.”

Because hope is often associated with the ability to keep faith in the face of adversity, it can be considered virtuous. In my experience as a coach and as a human being, however, hope can be a dangerous place to sit for too long. When we hope for something, we take ourselves out of the equation and give up our own power to make real choices. We cling to what might be or to what could happen instead of accepting whole-heartedly what is. Maybe it is a relationship we want desperately to work out. Maybe it is that job we dream of that never seems to materialize or maybe we are waiting, hoping to make a big sale or meet the right person.

The dictionary defines hope as, “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” When we hope, we are attached to a specific outcome and we begin to perceive that our happiness is dependent upon whether that particular thing comes true. At first glance, hope and faith appear to almost be synonyms but if we go deeper, we find there is a very clear difference. Hope is based more on a desire where faith is based on a knowing. Both relate to something that is unseen but to have faith is to truly believe in the outcome rather than wish for it. With hope, there is still a seed of doubt but when we have faith, we believe to our core that the desired outcome will prevail.

I would like to invite you to look at hope versus faith in your life. Which one gives you more peace of mind as you travel through life? Personally, I would rather be in a state of faith,. When I am strongly rooted in this place I am unwavering in my trust that my life is on track; guided and fully supported. When I am bathed in the light of faith, I can relax and surrender my personal will to a higher power that is always conspiring for my greatness.

Sometimes, this conversation serves only as a catalyst for movement. It cracks open the door and lets the light in so that you can feel you are making a conscious choice to own this horse and are not trapped in an unchangeable situation. It can segue into the formulation of a new plan or simply be the recognition of a crossroads. A conversation like this can drill down to the essence of why we ride, what our horses mean to us and ensure that we stay on track with our goals.

Sometimes, this conversation is horrible, painful and met with resistance worthy of a gale force wind. For most of us, our horses are so much more than pets or possessions. They embody our dreams. We see them as reflections of our best and most desirable selves. They are not only our companions but are our partners. They are sport and art and passion. They take a place in our hearts interconnected with all aspects of our being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Amazingly, this remains true despite the hardships inherent in any human- equine partnership and sometimes despite years of frustration, expense, shattered confidence and broken bones. There are times, from the outside looking in, that the depletion wrought by what we, in the business, would call a bad match, is painfully obvious. A person can build up an unbelievable tolerance for the dreary frustration of dealing with the issues resulting from “the wrong horse” or having a horse whose talents and interests don’t intersect with her own.

Recently, I found myself having this conversation again. This time, it was with myself. “What are you gaining? Does the benefit still outweigh the cost? What is best for your horse? Life is too short.” I felt strangled by my own resistance. I turned away from the mirror several times before I let my own words sink in. Pain and fear, sadness and failure swam around in my mind for days as I pondered the prospect of letting my special mare go.

There were the dreams and expectations that go along with owning what, by most accounts, should be my once in a lifetime horse. There were the facts of her jaw dropping presence and ever-sweet personality. And there were the shining moments of hope in the form of days, weeks and even months of amazing rides that kept me hooked for several years. There was, however, also the frustration of always finding myself several steps back from where I was headed and never knowing if my hard work was going to pay off. Many times, I found myself astounded by my own willingness to spin in the cycle of chiropractors, farriers, supplements, vets, hormones, custom saddles, training methods, feeding programs, and special blankets. I felt, vaguely, the desperation of a crazy person. I would have recognized it immediately in someone else.

So here I am. I have called myself out. The spin cycle has stopped. I have gathered the courage to let go of those dreams, to look hope in the eye and choose what is best for myself and for my horse. I am sad but I feel lighter. I will move forward with other horses and she will lead the life she was meant to live. Happy trails my sweet girl. I know that we will meet again.