Writing Challenge: A moment that took my breath away

wide open spacesTonya over at Fourth Generation Farmgirl hit me up with this writing challenge. Please check her blog out if you haven’t already. It is a fun and beautiful blog! This challenge spoke to me and looked fun, so here we go:

A moment that took my breath away. I just had one yesterday. As a matter of fact.

I volunteer at a facility for “riders with disabilities”. I help teach one day a week. I have a class of five children with varying disabilities (I like to call them alter-abilities). Anyways, my daughter and I do a lot of volunteer work at this riding center. We cross paths daily with all sorts of amazing people. Some may qualify for riding for physical disabilites, some for developmental, mental or otherwise disabilities. There is a large scope of people there. Well, anyways…my weekly class and the five kids in it had a party this week to celebrate the end of the riding session. Pizza and fun.

The moment that my breath was taken away was when my daughter, who is technically a “volunteer” (she goes and helps with cleaning stalls and little chores while I’m in the arena). Well, she sat down at the round table with my five students and she ate pizza, laughed, played, teased, helped and loved everyone of them. As if there was NOTHING DIFFERENT AT ALL ABOUT THEM. I realized in that moment, that there really was NOTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT THEM. And her little soul simply knew that. They were simply kids, she was simply with friends, and she was simply having fun at a party.

I saw, in that moment, all that was right in the world. That my daughter didn’t see the “differences”. That I had raised her in a world that didn’t see the “differences”. And that all of these beautiful six children blended into a group of fun and happy kids. Period. It was beautiful. It gave me hope for the world. It reminded me of what’s important. It reminded me that we are all one. We are all in this together.

It took my breath away.

the other side of fear

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”    –unknown


I was teaching a “saddle club” group lesson the other day with my teaching partner, a lovely lady who is passionate about teaching “riding lessons”. She does not, however, have the background I have in working with children, children with special needs and in the counseling/social work field. She has a 1:1 student-we’ll call her Jane-who also participates in our weekly girl’s group “Saddle Club” riding and education class. My partner has expressed to me frustration in teaching Jane. You see Jane is ten years old, but presents as somewhat slow, unfocused and doesn’t seem to progress in riding skills. During the group lesson, Jane was having difficulty and really holding up the class. She was on a new horse, and could not even get the horse to MOVE. My partner expressed quietly to me that she was increasingly frustrated with Jane and simply losing patience…she expressed that she doesn’t know how to “get through to this girl”. I suggested that we split the group and one of us could take Jane individually so the others would be allowed to continue on with the group lesson. I told my partner that if she wanted I would be willing to work one-on-one with Jane today. She said “yes, please!”. I took Jane to the far end of the arena and started working with her. After some time I picked up on some patterns she was displaying. And I picked up on some tension in her body. I picked up on her fear. I asked her about it and she expressed that she was terrified. So we broke it down, took it literally ONE step at a time. I did some focus excersices with her that I do with my riders who have special needs and/or fear trauma issues. I find it really brings them into the moment, gives them a focus and reduces the anxiety build up. Jane then began to relax and by the end of our time together she was circling her horse around a barrel and back to me, over and over. Thus-as I pointed out to her-showing her that she has control and knows what to do, even beyond her fear. With intention, her horse will respond. It was an amazing 20 minutes. Later, my partner expressed to me that she wishes she had my patience. And that she feels like the parents are “wasting their money” on lessons. I responded back that, perhaps she was looking at this wrong. No, it’s not a “waste”. My partner is focused on “riding lessons”. She wants to see Jane progress in her RIDING. Sometimes, I told her, when I have a child like Jane who has some special needs (in this case, fear), I realign my intention-this is where I firmly believe that riding is therapy. Ok, I do have my “regular” riding lessons. And, yes, I enjoy seeing my girls win their ribbons at shows. My passion, though, is with the deeper stuff. What Jane can do and learn through horseback riding is priceless and worth far more than those ribbons. She is an extremely timid, shy, insecure girl. I suspect, but don’t know (and won’t address because she isn’t my student) that there may be some disability (alter-ability) such as mild Autism or something developmental. Jane is gaining so much more from this experience than my girls who bring home the ribbons are. I promise you that. Strength, focus, confidence, assertiveness, perserverence…. Just getting up on a horse for her is more brave and amazing than you can imagine. AND this is a form of therapy that she LOVES to go to and participate in. Do you know how many kids tell me they hate going to therapy??? So boring! And, all while they sit on the back of a horse in my therapy (office) arena. It really is a beautiful thing.

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyways”….John Wayne

“about” paradox

I revised my “about” page. I decided to also use it as my current post. You see when I first started this blog, I didn’t know what exactly to write for my “about”. I did a simple, neat and elusive paragraph. I had wanted to stay very anonymous. I thought I wouldn’t use names, I wouldn’t post pictures of my daughter, I would keep it very ….distant. I am not a computer, technology, social media type of person. And, to be quite frank, it scares me. Well now that we’ve been blogging a while, I realize that no one is really looking at my blog anyways. That is somehow liberating. I had grandiose ideas of followers and …dare I say, book deals….! Ok, so. Anyways. What I have found is that my daughter and I are having tons of fun with this blog, finding a creative outlet that satisfies us, gets us thinking, helps us (particularly me) feel more gratitude for what we have and the adventures we are blessed to live everyday. I have made some online connections with other “horsey” addicts, homeschoolers and homesteaders which I have learned so much from and enjoy keeping up with. Other than that, I still feel we have that anonymity that allows for more sharing. Thus, I have been using pictures of a more personal nature, as well as more honest thoughts and writings. I finally decided to add a more honest bio to my about page and I share that here now.

Raised in a barn 2
Welcome to Barnraised. This is about life in all it’s messiness and all it’s beauty. I moved my family into a barn, literally. It all started with a horse, then became more. We moved into the barn apartment of the boarding and training facility where I initially kept my horse. Our lives have completely changed. This blog follows the fun, the adventure, the beauty and-yes-the messiness and challenges all along the way. Thanks for stopping by the barn!

My bio: I have an undergrad degree in Social Work and a masters degree in Counseling. I spent many years working with children and families in different social work and therapeutic situations. I have lived and worked all over the world, specifically in Japan, Ireland and England as well, of course, as many states in the U.S. I then “settled down”, married a good (and -thankfully- very flexible, easy-going and low-maintenance) man, got my contractor’s license and started a construction-type business with him, then had a little girl (Sahalie) that made life so much more exciting. She is seven (at the time of this “about” page). I left my career in social work and therapy to focus on our business and homeschool my girl. I found the world of Waldorf education and have studied, studied, studied. I homeschool in the Waldorf pedagogy and we love it. It’s magical. I ultimately earned a certification in Waldorf Education. Just FYI, we use a combo of the Christopherus homeschool curriculum and un-schooling. Prior to all of this, I have been a waitress, bartender, teacher, traveler, librarian, nanny, basically-you name it, I’ve probably done a little bit of it.

I grew up with horses and showing, but left that world during my years of college, travel and career. Then I found it again (through my daughter who loves horses). I rediscovered my love of horses, of the barn life and simplicity. My daughter and I bonded deeply through horses and riding together. We bought one horse, we got a second, I became a certified horse trainer and riding instructor through the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), started instructing at our local commercial boarding, touristy trail-riding, riding lessons and training facility (where I boarded our horses). Everything snowballed from there and I was offered the opportunity to move into the barn apartment and oversee the place (50+ horses). This would be a lot of work AND a lot of fun. What an experience. So, we moved in and it’s been a whirlwind of learning, growing and inspiration ever since. I have always known the therapeutic value of a horse, how they teach us about ourselves and force us to grow. I never would have foreseen this path in my life opening up. I truly feel like I stepped into my purpose in life as I teach therapeutic horseback riding to children (and some adults) with a passion I never knew I could feel for my life’s work. It is one of those “Cinderella stories” where the shoe just fit, my two “worlds” collided and I just belong here.

While it might all sound like a fairy tale, I assure you it is not. It is a constant paradox of peace, quiet, acres of horses, nature and being in the moment, a wonderful escape from the rat-race AND it is also hectic, busy, sometimes very loud with never ending work, early mornings, little sleep. It is one moment breathing fresh air and enjoying a quiet sunrise and then the next moment of 9 degree morning feedings in three layers of clothes, breaking ice in water troughs, getting out a trail ride of five dude riders (God help us), checking on a colicing (sick) horse, calling the vet, arranging a riding lesson, sweeping up spilled grain and wishing everyone would just go home!

When I started this blog, I was torn between writing about…Horses? Homeschooling? Parenting? Life living in a barn? Rambling thoughts? I just let it flow and found myself going back and forth between subjects sort of weaving it all together. This is my place to explore life, relate horses to philosophical thoughts, remind myself of what’s important and have a creative outlet for my daughter and myself to create an “online journal” about our adventures here, as she is always my editor. She and I both take the photos and come up with the ideas. Her artwork and inspiration is included here as well. This blog is continually trying to improve and grow (as am I) so I appreciate any and all thoughts, comments, suggestions and connections. Thanks again!