At 3:00 yesterday our horseback riding student splashed into my life in a bright pink Unicorn shirt, stretchy colorful pants, a pink Unicorn helmet, and a smile that lit up all of North County. She is amazing. She galloped more than walked. She concentrated 100% as she got to pet her Horse – a tall, handsome Bay – who literally, figuratively, and emotionally put her on top of the world.
I could not help crying – it just happened. She listened so well and you could see her processing everything. Everything! Miss Diane was the instructor and Miss Jackie turned out to be so much more than her title: Sidewalker. Miss Jackie put a cloth saddle bag with large Velcro pockets on each side of the Horse’s shoulders.
Up the ramp. On her Horse. Off we went. Glee. If there was ever a time to use this word, it is now, to describe this ride. Glee in her, me, our sidewalker, instructor, and the big Bay Horse himself. When we departed the ramp, this young lady asked her Horse to go. Not gooooh = it was gu. But she did it. Reins in hand, we were off on a trail ride with the Horse leader (me) in tears, the sidewalkers in smiles, and the rider in glee.
We walked 300 feet and I was told we would be stopping up on the left, close to a painted sunflower palette. There was a stuffed animal peeking out from the top. Our rider spotted it and reached out with a smile, a joie de vivre that lit up the air around us replete with sparkles and glitter. Glee. Miss Jackie got the Penguin as it turned out to be and handed it up to the rider who took that little Penguin and hugged it so close to her chest it disappeared in her arms while the smile, that smile, her smile, hit me like a ton of bricks. I fell into love with her.
I fell into love with this exceptional Horse, and this concept of sharing something I have treasured since the age of 5 = time spent with a Horse. All the while recognizing that today’s time, this one hour may be the best hour in the whole week for every member of her family. Likewise, who knew a stuffed animal would light up this 5-year-old? When a spark is that apparent – transformation is close by and I was swept up in it.
As she madly hugged the Penguin in his red suit; both instructors told her with their hands: “Put him in the saddle bag.” Miss Jackie opened the pouch, made sure her charge was looking at her, then spoke while she signed the request again. Our horseback rider wanted to still hold him close but she must have put all this together at once: Do as asked. I’ve done this before. I trust these people. Hug him one more time. Put him in the saddle bag as asked. Pick up my reins. Ask my Horse to go. And ride on.
She did all that and 100 feet down the trail was another stuffed animal peeking out from behind a wooden sign. She saw it. She aimed her Horse for it. She stretched out both arms to receive it. This time holding her new found friend – she squealed and jumped up and down in the saddle. We all let her including her magnificent steed.
Next was the Wishing Well. Her Horse stood alongside while our young Girl dropped quarters in the loud metal bucket. I wondered about her implants amplifying the sound. I wished at the well that I had 20 quarters. She was delighted with 4.
We moved on. Within 50 feet she spotted her next treasure and steered her thoughts there. Her enthusiasm did not wane or get ho-hum; it increased. As did my tears. There was no getting these emotions in check. I have a GrandDaughter who went through surgery behind her ear and down her neck at this age. The GrandDaughter I have not seen in 16 months. Yes, I am counting every day. My GrandDaughter who is a Horse enthusiast, loves Unicorns, and wears pink. A lot. The only thing on the planet she loves more than Unicorns and Horses is her Brother. Me too.
The right-hand pouch on Miss Jackie’s side was stuffed to the top within 20 minutes. Only after making eye contact with Miss Diane, seeing it was super important she did not feel left out, our 5-year-old acquiesced and put one and only one animal in Diane’s pouch. High values and principles are already deeply in place in this 5-year-old and shared out loud, in action. I was not watching this lesson – I was feeling it – feeling it within that space where Children live – occupied by nothing else save a super special Animal. Here I get to say ‘thank you’ to the Universe for sharing someone else’s Child with me yesterday. The most gorgeous, happy, grateful Girl it was an honor and blessing to be near.
A shout out here: cheerleader as I am for therapeutic riding programs worldwide; it was the 4th animal in our ½ hour walk – the Giraffe at the lemonade stand – when I asked Miss Jackie (sign language and teaching volunteer) how she knew where these animals were hiding. She said: “Our rider enjoyed a similar game last week, so today, I walked the trail before the family arrived and placed these stuffed animals where she could easily see them.” Jackie’s only thought was to be kind.
At the end of the ride, once again planted on earth, our young charge got to rifle through the saddle bags and take one of her animals home. She chose the Penguin. Hugging him tightly with one arm, she took her time to look each of us in the eyes and in her own unique, magnificent 5-year-old way; touched her fingertips to her lips and lowered her hand in our direction. It was as if she was offering something special. It was so much more than a whispered ‘thank you’. She was blowing us a kiss. A kiss full of unbridled happiness.