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This fall Maddie made the decision to quit ballet; her level was stepping up to classes twice a week and she simply wasn’t ready for the commitment. And while I understood it, the retired dancer in me was crushed; I know how much I loved dance my whole life and want Maddie to know that joy. But we also want Maddie to find what she loves, so we step back and give her some space to make her own choices.

Horseback riding is something Maddie’s enjoyed for a while; she’s been on a couple trail rides and always loved it. So as I cast about for something to let my introverted, nature-loving, animal lover to try, I instinctively thought horseback riding would be a good fit.

Believe me, we know it can get expensive and it’s not without risk, so Brian and I talked about it a lot. But I felt in my gut it’d be great for Maddie – almost therapy sometimes. So we bought a six-class session and gave it a whirl.

And it’s a match made in equine heaven.

Maddie absolutely adores her riding lessons and looks forward to her Saturday class all week long. Saturday’s become her favorite day; a long, slow morning of unstructured play and waffles around the house, and then it’s off to the stables. The minute we step out of the car at the barn she’s a changed girl, breathing deeper and slowing down. She’s learning to saddle her horse and take care of it, not just hop up on it like a princess, and she loves simply hanging around the stalls and watching the horses. Contentment creeps across her shoulders before she even gets on a horse.

I find myself looking forward to the time as well: an hour on a porch reading a book and watching my daughter ride in the ring is not such a bad thing. After Maddie’s group lesson, she likes to hang out in the old farmhouse talking to the barn cats, petting them and simply enjoying the lack of rush in her life. We chose the stable Maddie studies at deliberately, very much enjoying their laid-back, no-frills attitude; there’s no fancy riding clothes required, no sense of snobbery or elitism anywhere, and we like it like that.

This past weekend it rained all day Saturday and classes were canceled, leaving Maddie distraught until we told her she’d get a free make-up class; no short-changing of her six-class package. There’s no telling how long this will last, of course, but I have a feeling we’re in this for the long haul.


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