(You might want to get your tissues ready for this one.) You see, sometimes life can be pretty challenging for some of our riders. Home, or school, or both may be more stressful than safe. Life may be pretty uncertain from one day to the next. The challenges and the hurts of daily life show up at the barn and often presents itself in fear and timidity. But then they find a safe place in a horse… and that’s when they find their courage.
That’s exactly what happened for one young boy in particular. When he arrived, he was shy and nervous. He lacked confidence and was fearful of the horses. He did not speak much, and did not know what to do around the horses. He was kind to them, but did not want to be left alone for even a second. His instructor knew that somewhere deep inside, there was a little boy with loads of confidence and skill, but reaching those abilities was going to be a challenge. In her attempt to help him blossom, the instructor tried pairing him with several different horses in the herd. Each time, the answer was the same: shy, avoid risks at all costs, stay comfortable and safe, and absolutely don’t try anything new. “I’m not ready yet,” he would say. “It’s not safe.” She just knew he could do so much more, but he was struggling to feel safe enough and confident enough to try.
Then, one day, his instructor decided to try pairing him with TC. She is one of our newer therapy horses, but right away she has been key in helping riders that need a confidence boost. She is smaller in size, has soft eyes, and is as patient as the day is long. She exudes gentleness. And right away, this little boy must have felt that. He wanted to help brush TC and tack her up. He was extra kind and gentle with her. And during his very first ride with TC, the thing his instructor wanted most for him–to ride unclipped from his volunteer and independently–happened before she even knew it! She said to him, “Are you ready to unclip?” He replied as he usually did, saying, “Not yet.” And so she turned her attention to the other students in the class. When she turned around next, there he was, BEAMING and riding with confidence independently! He had ASKED his volunteer to unclip him because he felt ready to ride on his own.
From that point forward, it was as if he had always been riding and always full of confidence. He would look out for TC, make good decisions for both of them, speak up for both of them, and take extra care with TC to make sure she felt safe and comfortable. It was undeniable that this boy had found his safe place – and her name was TC.
You know what the difference between being fearless and courageous is? Riders like this young man are not fearless. He had a lot of fear actually. But, with TC as his partner and guide, he overcame his fear and rode on his own. He was courageous. Courage is doing something even when we are afraid. TC didn’t help make him fearless, she gave him courage.