Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Confidence and Horses

We promised Hope horseback riding lessons for Christmas when she was 7 or 8.  Due to a full soccer schedule and not enough hours in the day to drive to lessons, she never got them.  Until a few weeks ago.

One of her friends from church takes lessons @5 miles from our house and invited Hope to come watch one day.  That was all she wrote--Hope was once again smitten with the horse bug and started finagling how to get lessons.  And yes, she played the "You guys promised and never followed through" card that made us feel about 2 inches tall.

Needless to say, she has been over the moon since she started these.  On her 4th lesson, she got to jump for the 1st time.

It's been fun watching how giddy she gets on the way to lessons and even just talking about them.  As we have been discussing realistic expectations about what we could afford to pay for and what she would have to earn, I've been amazed at her motivation and lack of complaining. 

I love watching her play any sport, but this has been different.  The confidence I am seeing is not something I've seen in soccer, or basketball or volleyball or even cross country/track.  I was trying to put my finger on it after watching her take the horse through a couple of different jumps.  I think a big part of it is her trainer/teacher--Jen.  Jen is sooooo encouraging--even when it took Hope several tries to get Cowboy (the horse) to make the first jump.  She never yelled, she never got irritated, she just continued to positively reinforce what to do. 

Honestly, it made me tear up.  As I was thanking her afterward, her comment was something like "the horse knows when you're not 100% confident.  The rider knows what to do, she doesn't need me to criticize her over and over."

I can't tell you what a breath of fresh air that was to hear and observe.  We've had some really good coaches.  And some not so good ones.  I've told every one of them that Hope needs to know you believe in her and she will perform.  If you yell at her or beat her down over a mistake, she shuts down and loses confidence.  This is the first time I saw what that really looked like and it reinforced what I knew all along, but was starting to doubt. 

As I was watching the confidence ooze out of her, it was bittersweet.  I love this for her, but I also wish I could give every teenage girl horseback riding lessons.  I wish they could all be as sure of themselves as I have seen her to be--even when she's not doing it "right."  I realize we are still in the honeymoon phase and it will get harder and require more discipline.  I also realize that we lucked into an amazing trainer. 

But it's more than that.  It's a posture and glow and a sense of something that I could never teach her. The only word that comes to my mind is "Freedom."   

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