Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pony and Parenting Parallels

It's not just the letter 'p' that ponies and parenting have in common.  It's kind of....everything.  I was wallowing in some guilt/shame/frustration last night after a not-so-fabulous ride with my horse.

I read a LOT.  I read books, articles, blogs, comments...anything that I think might have a nugget of usefulness gets devoured.  Lately, I've been reading a lot of classical dressage theory on forward and lightness.   And have come to the conclusion that I am not a tactful rider.  Or a soft rider.  Or a fair rider.  Not because I don't want to be, but because I'm a work in progress.

How is this like parenting, you ask?  Well, for those of you that have kids I am sure this will sound familiar.  While your baby is in the womb, you spend days, hours, months dreaming about your perfect child and your perfect family and your perfect motherhood.  You see yourself in your perfect mother role (whatever that may be).  You are fair and just and even tempered.  You play silly games with your children and then you all go cook dinner together.  You romp at the park and stop to look at bugs and make them lunches without any processed foods.

Nowhere in your perfect family vision is the gritting of teeth while you wait for your child to tie their shoes at snail speed when you're running late, the raising of your voice as you ask your child for the fourth time to get in the bath and they yell back "Just one sec".   What you don't know before you actually have children is that you that you will be gloriously imperfect.  You will lose your temper.  You will make bad decisions.  You will punish your child when you should hug them.  Sometimes you will hug them when you should punish them.  You will give them too much stuff and then agonize over how to teach them to be less entitled.  It will be ugly and messy and some days you will remember how you thought your life would look like the parenting magazines, full of cute crafts and Mommy/Daughter moments.  You will laugh a kind of crazed, I-haven't-had-a-day-off-since-this-baby-was-born laugh  because your life looks more like the before version of Clean House and the last time you did crafts, you had glitter glue in your hair for a week.

And the thing with parenting and the thing with ponies, they're both the same path.  The same terrible, lovely, awful and beautiful contradiction of love and hope and effort and despair.  You throw your leg over the saddle and you envision your perfect ride, your soft hands, your horse rounding up through it's back. Some days you will insist on the fantasy and you will muscle your horse into a frame with steely arms, unforgiving legs and the crack of a whip.  And at the end, you and your horse are sweaty and disillusioned and you don't look anything how you thought you would.  Other days, you try to make up for your harshness by being overly soft. You throw the reins away, you think glowing happy thoughts while your horse ignores you and tries to buck you off when you 'whisper' a cue on her side.

The real truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect rider or a perfect mom. And though knowledge is power, some days you have to put down the books, stop worrying about what is right and just be who you are and where you're at.

Our children grow up to be adults, most of them leaving the nest and flying off to live their good life.  Our parenting will have shaped them, molded them, helped them learn and grow.  Even the bad parts.  Sometimes what we learn from our parents is what not to do and that's okay too.  People are perfectly imperfect and I wouldn't want it any other way.  Our children will learn, our horses will compensate.  Despite our stumbling and falling, we will get back up, we will forgive, we will love, we will try to do better next time.

Yesterday,  I got on my horse in the scary corner.  We had to circle the mounting block a few times, but I stayed with her.  I stayed focused and continued to ask and we had success.  And even though I have hands that aren't steady enough, even though I have a back that braces and legs that are on more than they are off, even though I am inconsistent on so many levels, I was there in that small moment with my horse.  We are growing together and in the end, we'll both be better for it and we'll both be alright.


  1. Life itself is a work in progress. I always remember that saying "Horses, kids and dogs will make a liar out of you everytime!"

  2. Amen sister. I just had the ride from hell last night (mostly my fault I think) and spent the night beating myself up about it (I was bracing! I jabbed when I should have given... I forgot how to ride...) But its true. I'm not perfectly patient and I'm certainly not the perfect horse mom 100% of the time...

  3. Lovely post. I don't have kids, but can imagine the parallels.

    1. Oh, so very, very true! I've seen that "Look" from my daughter more than a few times, and I'm pretty sure if Gabe could contort his face, I'd get that "Look" from him more often than not when I just manage to jack it all up.

  4. Dressage, parenting, life really, is the journey and not a destination.

    Perfection is the ideal that is always beyond our grasp. All of our grasps! I think the trick may be not to get discouraged, but instead to appreciate that the grasping leads us beyond what we think are our limitations and boundaries.

    (maybe you could sneak that picture into your daughter's senior yearbook ;D)

  5. That all sounds familiar to me - with kids and horses both!

  6. I really, really like this post. :) Thank you!