October 3, 2013

Horse Lessons on Raising A Teenager. ~ Julie Tallard Johnson

Photo: Wild Wisdom Natural Grace

I kept reading and being told, “Horses are spiritual teachers.” “The horse will teach you about your self.” “Horses are powerful mirrors.”

However, I tend to focus on caring for our two horses. I want to make sure they are happy, comfortable and safe (I’m a mom). It doesn’t matter if I ride them or not. They are simply part of the family.

We got the horses for our teenage daughter a little over two years ago. And she and I have taken lessons off and on from several trainers. I mostly watch as they work with my daughter.

After several skillful trainers and into our second summer with our two horses, I admit that there wasn’t a spiritual lesson in sight. Not for me anyway. Even when our 20 year-old horse, Norm, who was blind in one eye, knocked down a trainer on the same day he was aggressive with me.

I didn’t get a lesson out of it. I did get the horse tended to—we discovered he was going blind in the other eye as well and that his jaw was displaced. He was a grumpy horse because he was in pain and going blind.

I did take some time to consider what the lesson in it for me might be, but honestly nothing significant stuck. I just saw it as a horse that needed some attention. Well, just because I didn’t get a lesson doesn’t mean the horses weren’t teaching me something.

Norm has calmed down and hasn’t been aggressive since we got his jaw tended to. Knowing his “blind spot” helps a lot too. Then came the most recent training session. This trainer is known as a “trainer among trainers.”

She has been with horses her entire life. We are lucky that she comes out to this area for some other students and is willing to take us and our horses on. This last lesson was our third lesson with her and took place on our land instead of in a friend’s indoor arena.

I observed as my daughter and the trainer first did ground work with our one horse, Whiskey.

And that’s when I finally got what both the horses, in their own way, were mirroring for me. My daughter fell off the horse. The trainer congratulated her on the fall and asked us how many times she has fallen.

She was stunned to know that this was my daughter’s first fall. “Oh, your not an adequate rider till you’ve fallen at least 10 times and not good till you’ve been thrown off or fallen at least 20 times,” she said with a soft smile.

This was not said to make either of us feel better but to prepare us for the inevitable if we were to continue on this path as horse people. My daughter had to learn how to fall off a horse.

As a mother to an only child, was I really wanting or willing to let my daughter romp around in the pasture with a huge animal that will want to throw her off? Can failure and pain really be the path to success and mastering a skill? Why won’t the horse just be nice? Could there be another way to horsemanship?

Ultimately, could I allow my daughter to participate in such a dangerous relationship? I am certain my daughter had her own lessons to learn from this (She did get right back on the horse).

My first lesson (and likely the one that will also show up later as the last) is one of allowing.

You know, surrendering. Letting go. Letting things be. Getting out of the way. I need to allow my daughter to fail, fall, wipe out and get her heart broken and her pride bruised. Not just by a horse.

How can she, or any of us figure out this wild ride of a life without several cracks and bruises? Have I not written that disappointment points out that we are taking risks? And, in this new technology of cell phones and texting — can’t my daughter go places I cannot follow?

Can she not leave home without me asking her to check in with a text? Are there not many “pastures” with some version of a treacherous relationship that she may have to navigate herself, on her own, In her own way? Can I trust that she can and will decide if she wants to get back on the horse again? Can I surrender my need to pacify my own fears around her independence?

The trainer reminded my daughter that she is the Lioness; the Queen in this relationship and the horse needs to know that! And, I want her to know this about herself in all her relationships — that she is a Lioness, a remarkable young woman and is in charge of her own destiny.

I want her to know she is capable. But how, oh how, can she figure this out with me on the sidelines, texting her, or, if I am always there in the arena with her? She can’t. The horse too is showing me that this is between them, and that I should just stay away as they work all this out.

“Let things be as they are,” as the Buddha recommends.

For me I see that the horse could be a friend or teacher or romantic interest that she is exploring. She will fall, several times until she gets the right fit for her self, on her own––in her own way.

So it is a lesson of respect and trust as well. My daughter deserves my trust and respect and I will just have to deal with my own anxiety and blind spots on my own. When I think back on Norm (the older horse) and his aggression and blind spot—I think of my own blind spots and how I too misbehave when I am not able or willing to acknowledge them.

The blind spots will continue to be there. So anytime I feel the desire to take the reigns from my daughter I will know she is likely in one of my blind spots and instead I will breathe and stay put. Surrender. Let go. Take a deep breath and leave her be.

My “bite” of trying to make everything work out a certain way only makes me unpleasant to be around. So, lesson learned.

Now, on to the next one, which of course is all about how often we need to get back on the horse.

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Assistant Editor: Bruce Casteel/Ed: Bryonien Wise

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