I always found it a little magical how a horse will know if you don't believe. In yourself, in it ... It doesn't matter, in the end. If you don't put trust in yourself and in the horse, it's going to know ... and, it's going to let you know that it knows.
It was hard to believe in myself as a child. I was small with big hair, liked to find myself in the corner curled up in a fuzzy sweater pouring over a book that lead me into a different world. Other girls would sit around each other in a circle, would braid each other's hair and chat until the day grew dark. They all had confidence, had something that I didn't. I didn't believe in myself at all, only in the countless stories that were rapidly running out of shelf space in my room.
My mother sought to fix that with something more tangible - She wanted me to bond with an animal and find myself through it. Of course, there were many cats about our country property, but ... you never really own a cat. It owns you, in the end, letting you oh-so-graciously live in it's world until it wanders away. But ... the dashing, amazing, brave heroines in the books that I couldn't get my nose out of often had a companion in a horse. There were often long, waxing passages in the stories that I loved so much of a beautiful, brave Princess finding freedom in her life as she rode her horse through the countryside, feeling the wind in her long, silken hair. ...I never thought that I could have the sort of strength that the heroines in my books had, and the horse that my mother introduced me to seemed to realize that.
She wasn't very happy with me about it.
My first lesson was something of a disaster. Because I was meek and scared, Clarabelle shied away. It was never anything violent, of course -- I was never thrown off, but I can still feel the bruises that came with my ten failed attempts at getting on her back, and ending up on mine. It was frustrating ... very, very frustrating. My life was supposed to change when I rode a horse, right? I was supposed to become like an amazing Princess in a book, right ... ? Being as young as I was, at the time, there was nothing stopping me from breaking down into tears when everything didn't fall gently into place, just like it did in the stories that I still would much rather live in.
That was, until my instructor told me about the power of believing. She was a tall and beautiful woman with long and glossy hair pulled tightly into a ponytail that ran down her back. She was something like how I pictured the most of the Princesses in my books. She told me that if I don't believe in myself, the horse won't believe in me, either. They're very, very sensitive animals, after all ... They can tell, almost supernaturally, if you don't believe.
I didn't think I would be able to believe. It took ... an embarrassing amount of sessions, but Miss Angie was always right there with me, always telling me to believe, and Clarabelle will. I wanted so much to be like Miss Angie, to be like the Princesses in my books, I wanted so much for Clarabelle to accept me ... I started believing in myself little by little, and finally the day came that Clarabelle let me onto her back.
I definitely felt all of those feelings that the stories would go on and on about, whenever someone felt the freedom of riding.
I've taken up instructing. One day, I hope to be some other meek little girl's Miss Angie, and teach her how to be a Princess that believes in herself.
Photo courtesy of michael warren