I mentioned in passing to my daughter that I was planning to write a blog about how horses have had such a positive impact on our relationship. We were on our way to pick up some lunch to bring back to my office, as she had stopped by to have lunch with me. Miranda, turned to me, with a mildly horrified look on her face and said; "Well, wouldn't that be kind of a .............LIE?" Okay......
So, I will write about how I think horses, and riding, has helped us weather the awkward, and at times painful, teenage years. Motherhood can be so rewarding, but let's face it, it can be a HUGE pain in the rear at times. With my oldest child, my only daughter, growing into an independent person (and boy, is she independent) we faced some potentially divisive times.
My own mother, a single parent, passed away when it was time for me to transition, leaving me facing adulthood quite overnight. I wanted the luxury of slow growth for my own children, but had no real skills or plan in how to accomplish the kind and gentle launch to adulthood that I hoped for. I feared coddling them, and I feared being too harsh. Not having a real precedent to look back on, I was fumbling a bit.
How does one raise a young woman to be kind, independent, strong, loving, fierce, fearless and patient? How do you keep them from the pitfalls of abusive first loves, failing grades, low self esteem, and bad body image? Just to mention a few of the things I feared, in no particular order. My fears would ebb and flow along with scary teen topics from Oprah, and the Today show.
I no longer recall why Miranda started riding. But we started out with her riding at a local "ranch." (We live in Ohio, so the quotation marks are necessary). The distance was too far for it to be a regular thing, so after a while we moved on to a local Equestrian School where we met Jenny. Jenny was soon to graduate, but those few lessons with her set the tone for Miranda's, and my own, attitude regarding all things equine. Jenny would stop Miranda, a super skinny and too-tall 10 year old, and ask; "Are you ready to get kicked, bitten, thrown off, stomped and potentially hurt today?" A smile would break, and Miranda would answer with full conviction "YES, I am!!" And I saw her, the future tough girl that I wanted. No fear, just gusto and joy.
Miranda took rode for six/seven years, and then we leased and purchased our mare Pippi. She has fallen off, been kicked, bitten, stomped and hurt, but has dusted herself off and kept going. Pippi was as green as they come when we found her, and due to that was probably not the best choice of horse for us. Miranda had spent some time as an apprentice for a local trainer, and had some knowledge in how to train a horse. So we jumped in, together. Up until this I had been a show mom, you know "show up and applaude mom." Not a real horse mom. No mucking stalls, no dealing with the actual horse beyond holding a lead rope now and again, cheering and watching. A lot of watching, and talking and listening and watching some more.
I liked what a saw. Adult women loading, riding and leading, and sometimes fighting with, big giant animals. These women were tough, no holds barred, get the job done kind of women. They had attitude, and grit, and boy they did not take any 'tude' from anyone. I met every kind of horse women; the fakers, the rednecks, the rich and the poor, the uncouth, the braggers, the too kind, the too tough, the mean, the pushovers, the Parelli's, the Kuntry Queen, the drama queens, the list goes on. Mostly I met kind strong women, who would jump in an help a complete stranger with their unloadable equine (with more advice than can be asked for in a lifetime), try to catch a run away horse, and lend you anything they had to allow you to show. (There are negatives of course, like how hard it is to get one of these women to volunteer some time in the cook shack, but I will gladly leave that for another day.) And I thought it would be great if some of that "can-do" attitude rubbed off. I have to admit that I was rather happy when Pippi turned out to be a Jumper, as I prefer the more feminine elegance of English riding to the western grit of barrel racing. Not that you can't be girlie and "turn and burn."
Miranda being the one in the "know" about horses, she naturally took the lead in how to train and ride Pippi. I was support staff and that in itself was a true change in our relationship. She was the one who knew, while I was the follower. Sure, the buck stopped with me, as the adult, but Miranda took the lead. She taught me, and as I read and studied more we became better and better partners. We have had some ugly moments arguing about what is right for Pippi, and there has been some tense days. But when I look at Pippi I see the embodiment of a daughter/mother relastionship. We would have argued anyway as Miranda grew up, but Pippi gave us a common outlet and a reason to come back together. We knew that we both had Pippi's best interest at heart, and we both really wanted to be at the barn enjoying our time with our horse. There will still be some tense days, but we wouldn't be mother/daughter if the sparks didn't fly once in a while.
Miranda is today the kind, independent, strong, loving, fierce, fearless and patient (okay, that last one......?....) young woman I had hoped for, and coincidentally Pippi has many of the same qualities. Well, except for the fearless part, but we are all a work in progress after all. I wonder about the distance that may have crept in over the years, had we not had the common ground of the horse to keep us together. I look at other mothers and daughters, and I think that type of separate lives would have broken my heart. Many young equestrienne's have approached me and stated that they so wish their mom's were into horses, because that would have been so neat to share. (Miranda can tell them horror stories to take the dreamy expression and longing off their faces, I am sure). And I feel lucky.
Some day in the future, after Nursing school (which Miranda was just accepted to, YAY!!!), Miranda will buy another mount. One that fits her size better, and one just for her. Pippi will be ridden mostly by me then, but Miranda plans on showing Pippi for as long as Pippi can do so safely. Pippi will go live with Miranda at her future house, and I will go there to ride and train. That is the plan anyway. Of course that plan will have to be amended should Miranda move further away than a 20 minute drive, 'cause I am only letting ONE of my girls go at a time!!!