A dressage master, a ‘riding block’ and a 200-year-old mystery…

Some time ago “Miles” and I rode for a respected dressage master who had spent many years with the legendary Nuno Oliviera. It was a hot spring day at a barn south of the Twin Cities, and we trotted in 20-meter circles for nearly an hour. I kept tossing off layers of clothing, and “Miles” was pouring sweat. Afterward, JP said to me, “I think you can accomplish anything you want, but first you have to get through a riding block.” “What do you mean?” I asked. He said, “I can’t tell you that. You have to figure that out.” The following day “Miles” was trailored back (with horses they were going to ride on the eventing course) and JP went out of his way to tell our barn owner and manager the same thing, with great intensity. I was thoroughly bewildered by that time, yet extremely grateful. It seemed like a door had been opened, and even though I had no idea what was on the other side, it would ultimately be good. Little did I know that I had started on a course that has in some ways turned my life upside down forever.

Not knowing where to start, I continued taking dressage lessons. But I increasingly sensed that I was riding from an external place, not from within. I realized that I was not comfortable with that. It was mechanical. JP had also said to all of us, “Don’t be a mechanical rider.” I began to sense that whatever it was had to come from within.

I began to ride during the lessons of others, and watch how they were being taught. I began to observe the different teaching styles, and strengths of the teachers. I remembered him saying something to the effect, “Don’t bother taking lessons until you figure this out.” And so, gradually and reluctantly, I let go of taking lessons.

Some of my earliest childhood memories were riding cow ponies with my Father on our visits to the barren plains of South Dakota, sitting behind the saddle, hanging on for dear life. As these frisky quarter horses took off at a gallop, turned on a dime, and generated wild craziness, I had nothing but trust to work on, as I did not hold the reins. I realized that my childhood equestrian training was probably a bit different from most. I began to wonder if my Father was testing me. For that reason, I never refused to ride. I did, however, develop internal scars. That’s probably it, I thought.

As I began to get in touch with my roots, I said to myself, “that is what I know, that is what I need to get back to.” And so, recently, I asked for the help of a horse whisperer/cowboy who works wonders with all the horses at our barn and asked to learn to ride bareback comfortably. At first, it was just in the round pen. Then in the empty outdoor arena. Then the indoor. (You can imagine the eye-rolls, I’m sure.)

But slowly, gradually, with the help of the words of Nuno, faithfully transcribed for us, we began to grow together, “Miles” and I. We still have a lot to accomplish, but we are grounded and comfortable in the process.

My family, meanwhile, has been turned upside down. After the passing of my Mother I was at last able to connect the dots of the trauma generated by my birth family, which included my having to ingest toxic substances without my knowledge or permission. I told my husband about this and his response was, “You remember this?” I told my two younger children and they acted as though they had been caught red-handed. I told my sister, the only other surviving member of my birth family, and she was outraged at me. I had no other option but to refuse to have anything more to do with her.

So now we sit in a sort of limbo, as all that was hidden about these events comes to light. And in the process, and through it all, I came to understand what a mystery there has always been about what really happened to Wolf, and how many myths and false concepts (such as the limited hang-out version in “Amadeus”) have been foisted on the unsuspecting public, and I came to realize, in the midst of my horror and dismay at the behavior of my loved ones, how lucky I am to be managing to survive. And of course, all of this is because of the gift that he suffered and died for — his extraordinary legacy — die zauberflote…

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