As we’re about six months into parenthood (already?!) I was reflecting lately on how being an equestrian really has been the perfect preparation for having a teeny little human baby.
Benefit of the doubt. You know those days when your horse is a spooky/lazy/cranky/disobedient little turd? All the good horsepeople I know approach these days the same: with an assumption that something is bothering their horse, and a goal to figure it out and address it. While our creatures may be cheeky little a-holes sometimes, we know that misbehavior tends to come from a place of discomfort. It’s the same with a baby – she’s not crying because she’s a jerk, she’s crying because she’s hungry/tired/cold/hot/teething/bored/lonely. If I can figure out how to meet that need, fantastic. If I can’t figure it out, we lower our expectations for the day and snuggle instead of trying to tackle new things.
We all have bad days. I know we’ve all heard the saying “it’s a horse, not a robot.” There are certain days that Frankie shows up ready to work, and others where he shows up and says UGH NOT FEELIN IT TODAY MAHM. He’s a living creature with varying moods. It’s the same with Lina – every day is a new day. She’s almost always a happy little creature who loves to adventure, but she isn’t a robot either. When we have a rough day (due to any of the reasons I listed above), we don’t get worked up about it.
Trying new things one step at a time. When we started introducing half-passes to Frankie, we didn’t just jump right to it. We established a solid shoulder-in and shoulder-out, haunches-in and haunches-out, leg yielding, etc. We did this all at a walk, and then a trot. By the time I asked for a canter half-pass, he had all the building blocks and it was a non-event for him. As we start introducing food to Lina, I’ve approached it the same way: we spent a while getting used to sitting in her high chair for short durations. Then she sat in it with us while we ate dinner. Then we gave her some tupperware to hold while sitting there. When we finally gave her some food to try, she was comfortable and focused on it, because that was the only novelty at the time.
Trusting my instincts. Have you ever sat on your horse and felt like they were off? Maybe a ground person couldn’t see any lameness, but you could just feel it? Maybe you called up your vet, and took precautionary measures, because you are more connected and a bigger advocate for your horse’s wellbeing than anyone else could be. In the same way, I know my baby better than anyone. We are only barely two creatures instead of one. Regardless of what other people say is normal/abnormal/good/bad, I trust my instincts to make the call when things don’t feel right.
Having fun through the hard times. Training and competing is such a rollercoaster. You can be flying high one minutes (literally) and eating dirt the next (also extremely literally). There can be a string of lessons where nothing seems to click and your progress seems to be backwards. But you learn to find the little victories and successes to focus on, and keep the bigger picture in mind. That kind of resilience is so necessary when you’re on the steep learning curve of raising a human.
Turnout fixes everything. Just like Frankie, Lina is a million times happier when she has plenty of time to move her body freely – either rolling around and kicking on the floor with toys, or even better if we get fresh air. The days she spends a couple hours outside on a walk or at the barn (even in the cold), she’s a completely contented little girl. When in doubt: get outside.
While this is a little tongue in cheek, I really do feel like learning and growing with Frankie has given me the patience and perspective to be a better parent. I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, but we’re sure having fun figuring it out!