I stand on the side of the ring watching my daughter learn to post.
She is six. About the same age I was when I started to ride and began a lifelong love affair with horses that has brought me the most wonderful moments of my life and also the biggest heartbreak.
There is a part of me that is thrilled to see her on a pony and hopes that, like me, her world quickly becomes all about being at the barn, staging horse shows with Breyer ponies while at home, cantering into the kitchen while counting strides and doing flying changes, and concocting special treats for her pony made out of carrots, apples, and molasses.
But there’s another part of me that just wants her to play soccer.
The part of me that wants her to ride wants her to experience the other-worldly feeling of being in sync with a living animal. It wants her to have a four-footed best friend who will curl his neck around her when she cries into his coat after her boyfriend has dumped her. It wants her to orchestrate her school days and plan out her homework so she can spend an extra half hour at the barn each day or miss Thursday and Friday to leave for a horse show.
Selfishly, that part of me also wants to spend all those hours at the barn, in the car, at the horse show, in the hotel rooms, and in the restaurants together, like my mom and I did. So much time together that would never happen if she just played soccer.
But the part of me that wants her to play soccer wants her to know what it’s like to be fully part of a school and a team, and not always be leaving her friends behind for the barn or the horse show. It wants her to play a sport that other people understand and respect. It wants her to never ever consider how money (or a lack-thereof) is playing a role in her ability to succeed at her sport.
The part of me that wants her to ride wants her to have a sport she’ll be able to return to forever, long into her adulthood, after she’s built a career and a family.
But the part of me that wants her to play soccer wants her to come to the end of her playing career—whether that be in high school or college—and feel okay letting it go. It wants her to kick a ball around for fun and not go crazy with longing for a life she once lived. It wants her to play on an adult rec team and not have to pay through the nose or find hours and hours to do so.
In the end, it will be her decision. I won’t push her. I won’t hold her back. She will make her choice and her life will be irrevocably different for whichever choice she makes.
About the Author
Kim Ablon Whitney is a USEF ‘R’ judge and the author of equestrian novels. Learn more about her work at kimablonwhitney.com.