Throughout my life, there has always been at least one thing that I know, unflinchingly and absolutely, about myself. One thing that I have always been, am, and always will be.
I am uncoordinated.
Now, this isn’t your average, run of the mill, afraid-of-the-ball-get-glared-at-by-your-teammates-in-gym-class-uncoordinated. I mean running across the gym in the opposite direction and still getting hit in the head with a hockey puck. I mean falling down while trying to serve a tennis ball. That kind of uncoordinated.
By the time I was in the third grade, the only sport I had ever tried to play was soccer. In truth, to say that I tried playing it is probably a gross exaggeration, not to mention an injustice to soccer fans worldwide; my most vivid memory of the whole experience would have to be the time I chased a butterfly up a tree during a game, followed by the rest of my team.
Needless to say, I knew myself well enough not to have very high expectations when I first started horseback riding lessons. Back then, horses were big and scary and temperamental. The first time I saw somebody clean a horse’s hooves, I nearly gave up the entire endeavor on the spot. The first time I trotted a horse, my lunch almost escaped. But although my fears took years to conquer, I managed to stick with it.
Now I’m sixteen, and I’m fortunate enough to have a horse of my own, a little bay Thoroughbred named JJ. I’m not going to pretend I have any especially prodigious talent at this sport, but I do know that there is something in my riding that brings out a part of me which is somehow beyond myself, beyond me, an insignificant little human being. Something in me that connects with something in my horse that lets us accomplish things I never thought I was capable of.
Sure, it’s exhilarating to feel the wind brush your cheeks as you fly over a fence, and there’s no feeling like winning in the show ring. But riding is deeper than ribbons, deeper than adrenaline, deeper than just sport. Riding is a partnership, the cooperation between two living beings who, although they appear different on the surface, can learn to trust each other unconditionally.
I cannot begin to say how much my experiences with horses have affected my life, taught be about myself, or shaped the person I’ve become. But I think that one of the most important things I’ve learned is that sometimes in life, all of your plans disentangle themselves, and you find yourself cantering at a high rate of speed in the direction of a jump that can often seem a lot higher than it actually is. But as long as you know exactly where you’re going, and you aren’t afraid to trust your instincts more than you trust your fears, things can never turn out too badly.
So while I may not always know exactly what lies ahead, I have learned that I do possess the strength and the insight to live my life the way I wish to live it. My riding has shown me that the first and last thing you need is always a purpose. And in the end, even though I might never be able to shoot a free-throw, I’ve come to realize that it’s a worthy trade-off after all.