For the past month Max has been going to his weekly riding lesson and it’s amazing how much he’s learned in this short time. Once getting over his initial fear he’s been challenged each time to stretch out of his comfort zone and try something new. His goal is to go trail riding this summer with his Aunt Shannon in Vermont. His second lesson was about good posture and stretching. The task was to lean forward on the horse to place rings over her ears. He would then ride halfway around the ring and stretch again to take the ring off and drop it over a cone.
By lesson three he was practicing what seemed like a completely new skill but it actually built on the previous balancing task. The two point position consisted of standing in the stirrups and leaning forward over Cinnamon’s neck, using his hands to hold the reins and balance. And as he became more confident balancing he was also using the reins to begin to steer her in the direction he wanted to go. What a great metaphor for working toward our own goals! We start out feeling terrified, “I can’t do this! It’s large and scary and uncomfortable!” But as we gain confidence and begin to balance we realize “Hey, I’m doing this, watch me!” And just when we think we’ve got it, the next step is introduced. After I missed part of what he did in his third lesson because I was talking to another volunteer, Max informed me that I needed to watch him more closely in his next lesson.
In lesson four Max’s instructor, the amazing Robin, took away the stirrups. At first I thought she was only adjusting them but she draped them over the top of the saddle and encouraged Max to direct Cinnamon to “Walk on”. I felt my own body tensing as I watched. How was he going to manage this? “I can’t” was met with “Yes, you can. Use your other muscles to help you balance.” And suddenly he was doing it, riding around the ring several times without stirrups, balancing using the muscles in his legs and torso and feeling the rhythm of the horse. Cinnamon’s handler had let go of the lead rope and Max was not only balancing but also steering independently.
The smile on his face when he was allowed to lead Cinnamon out of the ring at the end of the lesson says it all.
We are all capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to believe. Learning a new skill requires practice. Support and encouragement from someone who believes in us makes it easier and more rewarding. We start with the first step of admitting we want to do something that may seem insurmountable. Once we declare our intention we start the work. One step builds on another and we go from barely balancing to stretching to steering ourselves in the direction of our goal. And just when we begin to feel comfortable the familiar prop is removed and we’re asked to do the next task. But we adjust, we do it anyway. “I can’t possibly do this” becomes “Look at me! I’m doing it!”
How are you stretching yourself? Do you have a goal that feels insurmountable but it’s something you really want to do? Are you ready to begin? I’d love to hear all about it and if you need some support and encouragement please reach out.