As a kid I always remember wanting to be with horses. All the time – it was my only goal in life. I had a few problems which I won’t go into now, which meant I couldn’t learn to ride until I was about 7. So, after years and years of badgering my Mum and the consultant with the never ending question the answer was finally ‘Yes – if it’s that important to her’!
And so it really began. A life-long love blossomed. Eventually, after a stint at University to study totally unhorserelated subjects (I was told horses were a no go – no money and a waste of my life!) I took up riding again as working with horses was all I ever wanted to do. I thought if I was determined enough and applied myself I could achieve anything, but to be honest the problems that had hindered me as a child played some part in making it very hard to become a really good rider. You see, being a perfectionist, if I was doing it I had to do it really well!
I stumbled into equine behaviour and psychology, and the use of these in horsemanship to get the best from a horse as sensitively as possible. I was still working at all this when Mia came onto the scene. I still had my dreams, and my horse. I continued to work at my riding. I remember one day (who would forget it?) when I had an incident on the road riding my horse. This was not long before Mia came along. I was out hacking, alone as I preferred to be (my Dad used to call me the ‘lone ranger’ just me, my horse and mother nature!). I was riding along past some gardens, one of which had a pair of dogs loose in the garden. They didn’t bark, they just rustled in the shrubbery smelling of predator, sounding like predators launching for the kill. My horse went absolutey bananas – spinning, rearing, leaping and generally turning herself inside out. I kept her from bolting and sat to her for what seemed an age, as cars patiently waited and watched the interesting events unfold.
I prided myself on stickability – it’s all part of the job – sticking on, sometimes knowing when to bail, but always being ‘in control’. At some point I became unstuck, and landed with a thump on the tarmac, as my horse bolted from the scene. A lady got out of her car to help, but all I cared about was my horse. She kept saying she would take me to the house she worked at within a stones throw for a cup of tea, but how could I? What about my horse? There were stars and tweeting birds circling my head, but I managed to stand and look around for my horse, with great consternation. I was shown the direction she had bolted in, I looked that way and there she was. She had bolted in absolute terror for her life, but had come back for ME. She was standing as near as she dare (a good 100M away!), casting terrified glances towards the garden of hidden dogs lathered with sweat and trembling with fear. I may not have become the best rider in the world, but I had learnt a whole lot about horses and that thing that she did was big – it said so much about how far I had come. She came back for me! And I did do rather well to stick on for so long, if I say so myself!
What does all this have to do with Mia? Good horsemanship is about grit, tenacity, determination, resourcefullness but most importantly being in the moment, and NOT in the mind. When I let go of my head, my thoughts my over-analysing I rode pretty well. But I lacked self belief, and when that took over I rode like crap. Mia, and my two boys, have (for now) taken over horses in my life. I can only stretch myself so thinly! Helping Mia has become nearly all I dream of and all I want. This huge problem she has – what you learn as a parent of a special needs child is that the responsibility is yours as a parent. The buck, as they say, stops with us. There is no one to come and take over and make it all OK. I have this huge anxiety – if I get it wrong it is not just my neck on the line but Mia’s whole life – her ability to function independently in the world. It is a huge responsibility and one that takes my breath away sometimes.
I think with Mia, like with my riding and horsemanship, the only thing I AM getting wrong is my belief in myself, my letting my head and vision be clouded by worry. If I could just get out of the damn way of myself I could start doing a great job of it. One day the inevitable crises of Mia’s path will hopefully unexpectedly show me how far she and I have come, as the dogs did for me and my trusty steed. If I could give myself any advice right now, I would say stop worrying, and start enjoying the journey as the journey is the most important part. I think Mia will get to where she needs to be, if I can relax and then be what I need to be to help her get where she needs to be. You can’t get things ‘perfect’ when you are worrying about getting it perfect, as the worrying bit takes over. Does that make sense?! And maybe I could just try and let go of trying to be perfect anyway.
I have had some contact from other parents, and worrying is par for the course here, but one lady is a mother of a boy with a very severe specific language impairment. She offered words of hope for the future as her son is now at University leading a normal life with friends and everything! Now, let’s work on me taking my own advice. Stop worrying and try and enjoy more. Isn’t that the hard bit?!