Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It May Just Be Singing To You...

While Marta rides around the arena in circles and plays games as she rides the pony, I sit on a freezing cold bench and bite my nails in fear of her falling and being trampled. Last week a kind woman stopped her magnificent horse in front of me and said that Marta reminds her of her daughter, now a young teen, who took to horses naturally and was riding by age 3. She went on to say that she herself had never even considered riding until her daughter asked for a riding partner, and got on her first horse at age 40.

When her daughter began riding, she and her husband had had some misgivings about the cost and practicality, which sounded a lot like what Trevor and I discussed about a month ago. But when she researched the effect of horseback riding on young girls, she was glad to find statistics showing that girls who grow up riding and caring for horses have more confidence, take less gruff from boys and have lower rates of premarital sex and poor behavior. They have higher grades and spend most of their free time volunteering at stables.

This woman said that her daughter is small for her age, but has grown up to be a strong girl who sets goals, works hard and doesn't "take any gruff" (she was fond of this phrase).

I believe it. Marta, who is knee-high to the pony, brushes Daisy, cleans her shoes and leads her around. She rides her, yes, but also learns responsibility and respect for a living creature. And that's not even the best part. She spends the entire time that we're there in the company of strong women. These ladies are aged 20-80 with horses twice their height, and there is no fear here. There's a strong sense of getting things done and taking care of animals. They exercise horses in therapy, they teach their horses techniques and coping strategies. They help one another with positive criticism and stall duties. They boost Marta's confidence by talking to her like she knows what she's doing, by showing her new things (even though they're not her teacher) and by complimenting her skills while she does them.

I was struck by this empowerment today while watching two of the young ladies do laps around the arena with horses who were recovering from injuries. Marta was there with her pony doing their own slow circles, and through the horses' snorting and the sound of the rough dirt flying, I heard Marta, all the way across the arena, singing.

Berit is our show kid. She'll sing and dance for anyone. But Marta feels like she doesn't sing well, a sentiment that makes us sad and worrisome about how it got in her head in the first place. We often cheer her on and tell her how great she is at everything, singing included, and it works sort of. But it's still hard to get her to sing anywhere but in front of us.

And yet, out in the arena, surrounded by horses and these smart, talented, athletic women, Marta was singing. Not for anyone at all, but because she felt like it. When she was done the ladies congratulated her on a great song, and she wasn't giggly about it - she just said thanks, and asked to play another game with Daisy.

I wanted to tell the girls there about her typical intimidation, about how doing this has brought out so much love that she's singing, but I didn't want to bring it up in front of Marta, especially because I knew there would be a few tears shed in the explanation.

This might not be Marta's passion forever. But today, she needed to be there.

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