*I changed the names of the horses for privacy of the barn she rides and for my daughter’s privacy as well.
I was reading Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening the other morning as part of soul homework. In it he says, “I have discovered, again and again, that I usually know what I need to do but just deny it, and it’s this small hesitation, this small resistance to enter what is real, that makes life feel neutral or out of reach.”
He’s essentially saying that we inherently know what to do, but we deny ourselves this throughout our lives.
My youngest daughter has been riding horses since she was in third grade. Her favorite horse is an American Paint and Quarter Horse mix named *Chief.
She has never really had the choice of which horse to ride; the instructor chooses the horse for her each week. She knows her skill level and wants to ensure the safety of my daughter and the safety of the horse.
My daughter didn’t initially begin riding Chief.
But Chief is who she’s done most of her riding on.
Chief taught my daughter how to ride a horse.
He was her soft place to land when she’d had a rough week at school. He was her home away from home when she went to camp for the first time in fourth grade; horse camp, that is.
Chief was her first love.
When I first started writing on this blog, I saw other bloggers over time reach levels of success that were far greater than what I was achieving. Some were gaining many followers, receiving book deals, getting invited to speak at conferences. I assumed all of those goals should be my next step, and when they weren’t happening for me, I felt like I was failing.
Did I want that all of that for myself? Not really. I was having fun with my blog where it was. I was getting my share of paid opportunities and I had a good relationship with my readers. Yet I felt like I was a failure because I was comparing my version of success to someone else’s version of success, even though I knew inherently I was exactly where I wanted to be.
I kept denying myself happiness because of those comparisons.
My daughter also felt the pressure. The next step from cantering was jumping, but Chief isn’t a jumping horse. She would have to leave him behind in order to jump. She was seeing her peers advance and didn’t want to be left behind.
So she advanced.
She loved the adrenaline rush of jumping at first. She could even periodically visit Chief at the barn, but it wasn’t the same. He wasn’t the same.
Then the pandemic hit, and she wasn’t able to ride any horse for a long time.
Lots of twists and turns happened in between the pandemic and present day, too much to tell without you losing interest.
A few months ago, my daughter said to me, “I’ve thought about this for a while and I want to go back to cantering. I don’t want to be in a jumping class. I want to be on Chief again.”
We asked if this was possible, and it was.
Sadly for Ella, another girl had fallen in love with Chief, so it was harder to ride him.
But Chief wasn’t himself. He’d been acting up for the other girl who was riding him. The handlers at the barn were struggling with him. They were bringing in vets to figure out what was going on with Chief. It was completely out of character for him to act this way.
One day, Ellie and I were on a walk and I said to her that maybe she understood what it was like. She’d been going through some things too. That we all go through rough times and she needed to keep that in mind when riding the horses who are “difficult.”
So Ellie asked if she could ride Chief in the next lesson. She knew the other girl from her former school and could sympathize with her. She knew how hard it was to love a horse and not understand why he wasn’t cooperating. They became friends, and she offered to let Ellie ride Chief in the next lesson.
To see my daughter on Chief again took my breath away.
I watched her talk to him while she rode. She whispered into his ear, and I knew she was telling him things only they knew.
At first, she was scared because he’s a horse and even the best horse riders have awe and fear for the horses that sit under them. But within the first 20 minutes, it was beautiful again.
She’s been riding him for the past three weeks. We know that can change as they alternate horses all the time. But when they’re together, it’s special and like we always say, as long as you’re on a horse it’s a good day.
For so long I was wrapped up in how much I was teaching in home school, how many extra-curricular programs she was getting, is she learning enough?
Then she asked to be held back for a cantering class so she could get the chance to ride a horse she felt a connection with and I knew in that moment that she would be just fine.
Maybe she struggles with division. Maybe she doesn’t know everything about photosynthesis.
But she’s able to ask for what she really wants, even if it looks like a step backwards to others.
But it’s far from being a step backwards.
She is light years ahead of all of us.