Over the weekend, I took 6 teens and pre-teens out for an all day trail ride at the base of the Rocky Mountains. I knew that it was most likely going to be a challenging day but what unfolded was both awesome and impressive. I watched as a number of girls started on what I would call the "Hero's Journey." There was a problem that needed to be solved, a muddy stream needing to be crossed, an unruly horse that wants to run off, panic from either the horses or riders as they were tossed into a situation they have never been in. No riders broke down and gave up, but it did bring out tears, heavy emotions, feelings of doubt, insecurity, dis-trust, and betrayal. These horses were not just rented horses from the local rancher, these horses were their horses, younger horses that they knew and most of them had never been out in the open space of these trails before. I think riders had hoped that this journey would be smooth, but there was tests for sure.
What amazed me was that the horses and riders that started out the day with immense challenges that they then had to work through on their own, became closer and closer throughout the day. The riders started to deepen into their horse's movements, connect nervous systems, have a stronger and more subtle communication as they rode in the fields, rocks, trees, and hills. I watched from atop my beloved horse as the girls rode down the mountain in silence, horses and riders seemingly reading one another's minds, and I realized that the ones that had the biggest challenges, and embraced them with courage, they were now more connected than ever. The ones that didn't have those challenges, or backed off from addressing the challenge, they missed something in the process.
This got me thinking about all relationships, the idea of "the healthy fight" between two people, or horses and people. I also started to think about teenagers in general, and how they are trying to learn the "healthy fight" as these fights or challenges actually help us deepen more into who we are, they teach us how to cry as we cling on for dear life to our wild horse, and find the determination to get back on and keep traveling.
The next day, there was a sense of completion from the riders that attended the trail ride. They understood the horse better and had a quiet confidence in themselves. The moral of the story is not to back down from the hardships, the hard days, the hard rides. The fight is not with your horse or the people around you but with the bumpy road you take.
Kaia Livingstone is a psychotherapist who runs a private practice outside of Boulder, CO. She specializes in helping horses and humans bond in order to help them relate and connect on a deeper level.