Sometimes working as co-director of the school here along with Craig Stevens can be a bit daunting. I’m not blind to my own attributes, I don’t need reassurance. I’m a skilled rider. I’m a talented and inspired teacher. I’m smart, fascinated, and well-informed on our subject, and I make a difference for every student I work with. It’s not that I’m worried that I’m not good at what I do, truly.
But, oh the sheer poetry of Craig Stevens at work. The never ending improvements, the mind that delights in learning, the daily joy he feels now fifty years and more into this life in the continuing work he’s privileged to do with these remarkable animals, and the stunning changes in horse after horse and rider after rider as he works with them, more and more gently, year after year.
I’m good at what I do, truly, I do know this. And often people who find him intimidating, or can’t follow his metaphors, or just need a different approach find my work even more useful. But he’s a serious master, and I’m not Craig, I’m just…you know… me. And it’s hard not to feel shaky sometimes.
Now, of course, he’s my husband! So I know all the down side. It may surprise you that I want him to be more diplomatic, and he COULD make an effort to dress like George Clooney and throw away “that one shirt.” He doesn’t do things around the house as I wish, and he rarely answers the phone, his jokes are appalling and he rarely does his lunch dishes, and can’t be counted on to fix the sink or take out the trash.
And then I ask him a question about movement or flow or touch or theory or history, and all the marital discord fades into the silly place from whence it came, and I could sit with him for days, just listening.
This has me in an odd place. As a woman, culturally we’ve been supposed to sit gah-gah next to our beloved men, which I find distasteful and demeaning.
But as a student, I’m gah-gah for what my illustrious (although uninterested in vacuuming) husband has to say.
As a teacher I have to keep my balance standing next to a teacher who’s read everything there is on the subject, who knows more about any given movement or how to sort out any given problem in balance than just about any other trainer on the planet now living. As a rider I ride in with a man who’s trained hundreds of horses to high school, and worked with thousands in his career. And sometimes if I let the competitive streak rise, I feel “less than”. But Craig is relentless at reminding me to set it down. We don’t make any headway when we compare ourselves to masters, we make headway when we compare ourselves to who we are being right now, and feel drawn forward by who we want to be.
So I look to my students and see the joyful changes in their riding and in their horses, and I let that be my guide to whether I’m a teacher worth my salt.
I look to my horses, and see that they end each session with connection, balance and grace, and let that be my guide to whether I’m a rider worth my salt.
And I look to my own growth, to whether I’m understanding this work more deeply, with more joy and more gratitude daily and let that be my guide to whether I’m a classical horseman, or not.
And then I can settle, then it’s no longer a competition, but a shared and joyful journey, and that’s so much more than enough.