If you were to look back in time you might see me, a two year old girl, having a conversation.
Adult: "What's your favorite animal?"
Girl: "A horse."
Adult, with amusement at such quick certainty: "Why a horse?"
Girl: "Because I can ride it."
Adult, still amused: "But why not a camel? People ride camels."
Girl, doubtful: "Camels are okay too."
And I did eventually ride a camel. And it was okay. But not very comfortable.
I spent my childhood dreaming of horses, and riding whenever I could. Which wasn't often. I gained no sense of who a horse was, there was no connection, and I was just a passenger.
When I was in my twenties, no longer sitting in the back seat and with a firm grip on the steering wheel of life, I got my first horse. With her I began an amazing journey that will never end. And I thought, "What a selfish kid I was! I just wanted a horse so I could make it carry me around." Well of course every two year old is selfish. But recently I realized that wasn't what it was about at all. Strange that it took me so long to figure this out.
When I was two, I daydreamed of horses, and the dreams made me happy. Kids can't help but be happy, at two years old. But I also had nightmares. The same one, over and over. The meaning of this was another thing it took me a long time to figure out. In these dreams my sister and I were left alone in the back seat of a car. The car would roll out of control, flipping down a mountainside or over a cliff. I couldn't reach the brake in time, no matter how hard I tried.
I'm not going to get into a big sob story about my childhood, but that was a bad time. I wanted someone to take control, but they didn't, and I couldn't. Luckily it wouldn't be much longer before things started to change, but I was a creature of the present and didn't know anything different.
Just a few days ago I realized why I was so positive a horse was my favorite animal at such a young age. I imagined this big, soft, beautiful, benevolent creature would take care of me. I didn't need to hold the steering wheel or reach the brake, and he would take me to wondrous places, and we would love each other. And we were just little, so my sister could ride double.
I don't think I had this idea formed in my mind. I wasn't thinking of running away. I wasn't looking for a solution, I was just dreaming.
What I couldn't know at the time was that horses won't help us run away. As I got farther and farther along the path of the horse, I came closer and closer to home. I didn't want to leave. I began working more and more toward the center, not away from it. I saw that the only way to move forward is to look inward. I wanted to make this life, this self, better. I couldn't go through life in a rut, doing the same things all the time and thinking how great I am. I had to get outside my comfort zone, learn new things, try new things, make mistakes, see how to do better next time. See that the only way to do better is to be better. My flaws just keep floating to the surface where I can see them. I can't lie. My horses are too honest to let me get away with that.
Does this sound familiar? I think all true horse people have experienced what horses have to give us, and know how difficult a gift it is to receive.
So still I journey. I expect this journey will never end. But with my horse by my side, we will go to wondrous places.