Susan moved to Ireland from America for 12 months — almost 20 years ago. Having gained a Master of Philosophy in Irish Theatre Studies, she embarked on a career in theatre criticism, which expanded to coverage of visual arts and dance — and beyond that to feature writing and blogging. She is the published author of three novels; her own memoir, Many Brave Fools: A Story of Addiction, Dysfunction, Codependency… And Horses debuts in autumn 2018.

As a Story Terrace writer, Susan interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better: you can read an anecdote of her own below. Get in touch today to work with her!

‘That’s a Really Good Thing About You’

… said my instructor one day. ‘You’re not afraid to use your voice.’

We were working Malabar on the lunge line, doing transitions. I prefer lunging in the arena as opposed to the round pen, the site of two previous lessons with the long rope and whip; the endless circles are dizzying enough, and being in the round pen makes it worse. I had watched, and I suppose more importantly, listened to my instructor; copying her, I sang the big grey horse down into the walk, and the halt. “Eeeeeeasy,” I called, “Whoaaaaaa.”

I always talk to the horses, and not only on the ground. I am always telling him or her that he or she is a good boy or girl, thinking it was nice for them, to hear there was someone up there, paying attention to their efforts.

At least I had been, until another instructor elsewhere told me off for it. She said I was talking too much and confusing the horse and that I should be quiet.

Since I didn’t start riding horses until I turned 40, it doesn’t take much for something to throw my mental state into a loop. Getting scolded when I want to do this well sets me back in my mind, and my body follows, and then it’s not fun anymore. It didn’t seem right that it was a bad thing to give affirmation to my mount. So I clammed up, and stopped myself when I was about to say something.

Over the course of the following weeks, I couldn’t shake how wrong it felt, and I decided to follow my instincts and say what I liked — and I was right. During a private lesson, for which I asked the focus to be on transitions on Amigo, I was encouraged to use my voice to call the changes when transitioning in the paces, for example the exhortation to “ter-rrrot!” from the walk, or a lovely soft “whoa-ohhhh” when going back down into the walk.

So, singing out to Malabar in that lunge lesson was not only useful, but fun, and freeing. My instructor says that a lot of people are afraid to raise their voices. Maybe those people had, at some stage, been scolded themselves. As I get more comfortable in my own ability to ride independently, I’m taking those scoldings with a grain of salt — and as a consequence, said scoldings are fewer and far between. Funny how that works…

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