Parenting Advice from a Horse
Ever since my now 12 year old daughter was 8, we've been going up to the pasture to spend time with Sunshine. "Where is she?" I ask. Talia would squint her eyes and point to the top of the hill or to the far side of the field under the eucalyptus trees, a good 10 minute walk away. Once there, we would spy the palomino mare chomping at the grass, head down, always accompanied by several protective companions. She would lazily raise her head as if to say "Oh it's you" and Talia would reach up and with a little help from me, put on the harness, and lead Sunshine to the gate with a gentle tug and soft "I've missed you" words. What always follows to this day, is a slow loving groom and a painstaking braiding session, a lesson or trail ride, a workout in the arena, and a secret cookie.
This letter is really a thank you note to the 19 year old equine friend who has helped me be a better parent. Sunshine herself is an example of beauty, strength and fragility. Qualities all women embody.
And she has always been so very patient when the young Talia was learning to be around large animals, learning to put on a bridle and a saddle. In fact she never complained, was never jittery. When the reins were accidentally crossed, did she get upset or annoyed? No. She simply waited for her charge to notice her mistake and correct it. And in the early days when Talia was learning to ride and she fell after Sunshine was spooked by an egret flapping in her path, did she bolt? No. She stood stock still and almost apologetically lowered her head, nudging the girl from her grassy landing spot below. As I lifted Talia back in the saddle and said "Up you get!" Sunshine craned her neck as if to add "Sorry about that. The bird took me by surprise. Time to head back now".
Sunshine has taught me lessons in patience, calm, compassion and unconditional love. Not to judge. To accept all that people are able to give with grace and gratitude. And she has taught my daughter the powerful lesson (way better than I could ever teach her), that giving is indeed receiving.