When our daughter K was about 8 years old, we introduced her to riding. Having tried her hand at a few different extracurricular activities, none had really been of keen interest to her. That is, until she discovered horses.
There is something wonderful about watching your child discover something they love, something they develop a passion for.
Given her love of animals, we had a hunch it might be something she would like.
When I think back to that tiny wee girl interacting with this very large animal, it strikes me that there was never any fear on her part.
Being around these beautiful beings seemed as natural to her as walking & talking.
Much of our daughter’s childhood & adolescent years were spent hanging out at the barn. It was her most favourite place in the world to be.
While other girls her age were busy experimenting with make up & clothes, our girl loved nothing more than to spend countless hours with other like-minded girls or “barn rats” as they called themselves, shoveling horse poop, brushing, tacking, & haying.
Happily volunteering most of her weekends to assist in the chores of the barn, she developed not only her love of riding, but a deep love & understanding of the equine world in general.
The “barn rats” competed on a regular basis in a variety of horse shows.
One of the circuits the girls competed in, required us to travel 2 hours away, which meant leaving the farm at 4:30am to get there in time for a 6:30am warm-up.
Prior to departure, chores needed to be done including feeding & watering all of the other horses on the farm. I think at that time, there was about 26 of them.
Our alarm set for 1:30am, we would sleepily roll ourselves into the car, making a stop at a 24 hour coffee shop on our way to the barn. I say “we”, as I was the driver. I was also the horse holder (groom), the cheerleader, the medic, the food supplier & of course, the Mom. It is surprising what a parent will do to fulfill their child’s passion.
Admittedly it was an ungodly hour to get up, but I wouldn’t have traded this time with my daughter for anything. At an age when typically daughters pull away from their moms, I had the unique opportunity to hang out with mine. To this day, I so cherish that time spent together.
Working together as a team, success was defined in the ability to get through the course together in one piece. Possessing a calm reassurance and a mutual understanding between horse & rider, the partnership often resulted in a successful day.
One of the most memorable shows for the girls, was the opportunity to participate in the CNE horse show. Although this competition is no longer in place, it was held in the Coliseum where the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is held each year.
The horse show was smack dab in the midst of the chaos of CNE. With screams from midway patrons, bright lights, loud noises, and the smells of fast food, it was a teenage girls’ dream & most likely a horses’ nightmare.
The girls slept in a stall for 3 days, supporting one another while they took turns competing, & basking in the frivolity of the CNE. It was like summer camp on steroids. In a horse stall. They loved every moment of this experience.
During her university years, K continued to ride on a more recreational basis. Ever resourceful in fulfilling her desire to be near horses, trading work for riding, she always found a way to fuel her passion.
Post university, she took a job working & eventually coaching at a therapeutic riding facility , expanding her knowledge to include the benefits of a rather unique relationship.
One between individuals with a multitude of disabilities, & the miraculous innate sense of the horse transporting this more fragile rider. Somehow understanding, with this precious cargo on their back, they needed to shed their sometimes stubborn nature, & become the most gentle steed one could imagine.
This only gave K more regard & respect for this often misunderstood animal.
Many people are afraid of horses, fearing their size & their ability to potentially do harm. In fact, horses are flight animals, most likely choosing to run away in fear more so than trampling anything. You only need to witness a 2000lb horse in fear of something as small & gentle as a butterfly, to know how fragile their sense of domination is.
From those first days of riding when K was 8 years old, she dreamed of some day owning her own horse. About 4 years ago, her little girl dream came true.
After much searching, she purchased a 9-year-old thoroughbred named Charlie. Like so many she has worked with before him, Charlie is a work in progress.
He has his own set of issues but then, most of us living beings do. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in his ability to love.
Regardless of his shortcomings, he basks in the glory of being accepted & loved, knowing that if he is having a bad day, it will not deter the bond he shares with our daughter. I suspect the feeling is mutual.
Riding, along with the simple pleasure of interacting with horses, has become K’s passion, her means of exercise & her therapy.
We could not have foreseen all those years ago, the impact those first few riding lessons, would have on our daughter.
The bond that is unique between human & equine. A bond that runs deep, offering both partners much reward.
Discovering what you love is key to finding fulfillment in becoming the person you are meant to be.
Regardless of what your passion is, it has the ability to make us feel whole, feeding our souls & perhaps giving us the opportunity to realise a dream come true.