It seems that our mother-daughter relationship has entered a new-found level of I can do it “all by myself.” As a mother, this has been challenging. Of course I want independence and personal growth and development for my daughter. Yet, I also want to hold her hand, calm her fears, and shelter her from any harm that may come her way. I’ve made progress, believe it or not!
Charleigh’s first riding lesson was May 4, 2013, just three-months shy of her third birthday. I remember the day so clearly. I hurried to tack up Scout, the pony we were lessoning on, at the same time attempting to wrangle a two-and-a-half-year-old who was honestly more intrigued with the barn cat, Tigress, than the pony. Go figure… Miss Erin, our assistant trainer, and I literally held Charleigh up in the saddle. Her little legs barely fell below the saddle flap and she just kind of perched there with this huge grin from ear to ear. She was hooked.
Over the months, Charleigh learned the basics of horsemanship, the importance of keeping her heels down and hands together. All this time I was glued to her side. Miss Erin and I soon entered Charleigh in her first lead-line class at Sonoma Horse Park. It was blue ribbons and fun for all!
In October of 2013, a sweet little pony named Olive came into our lives. The bond between Charleigh and Olive was instant. This mare is honestly the kindest soul ever and it was my hope that she would be the one to not only teach my daughter, but me as well, the importance of growing up and letting go.
Charleigh’s confidence on Olive has grown over the past year. She went from asking me to help groom the pony to finding a step stool, dragging it over and grooming little Olive herself, giving me careful instructions when I was too close or doing something incorrectly (“Seriously child? I have been grooming horses since before you were born…”).
On Charleigh’s fourth birthday, she got to trot for the first time. Miss Erin and I jogged next to her. Charleigh sat up tall as Olive trotted along. The sweet giggle that escaped Charleigh’s lips had us both in tears. The smile of sheer joy and accomplishment across her face reminded me of how I felt when I started riding many years ago.
Now, a year-and-a-half into lessons, my new “role” is the mom at the gate. I’ve managed to remain un-glued to Charleigh’s side for the past six weeks as she enters her new-found world of trotting on the lunge line with her trainer. I find myself biting my tongue a lot and mumbling under my breath, “Keep your heels down… Hold your hands together…” all the while letting her soak up this amazing experience and figuring it out for herself.
My confidence in my daughter has increased—not that it was ever lacking, EVER—and I am able to witness her proud moments. Like the time she kicked hard enough to make Olive trot by herself! Imagine a small child with legs out wide and that slight “thud” that’s just barely enough to mean “trot”. These are moments I would not have witnessed had I been glued to her side. Progress for us both!