Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Horse Hobby

There is something about the outside of a horse 
that is good for the inside of a man - Winston Churchill

Photo courtesy of the talented Ashley Perry 

Some times you meet someone at just the right time. You know, just when you need them - their energy and support. Amy Oleson is that someone for me. Amy is my horseback riding instructor and more than that, she’s become a friend.

I met Dr. Amy Oleson about a year and a half ago when I saw an ad for her riding instruction on a local newsletter called Valerie’s List. Originally, I had contacted her about my older son, Brady, as she provides horseback riding instruction for children with autism spectrum disorders. I had heard therapeutic horse back riding worked wonders for children on the spectrum.

Let me back track a tad…at the time I first started riding with Amy, I was really at a point in my life where I had been just punching a time clock each day and just powering through the motions of daily living. I had become very deflated and just dealing with all of the things related to Brady’s condition was exhausting. If I could have, I probably would have stayed in my sweats all day and never left the house. Looking back, I probably was depressed. I was go go go and every waking thought was consumed with things about Autism. Nothing in my life was for my benefit. Everything I did, every decision I made was with my children’s best interest in mind. Not even my husband factored into most of these decisions. I, my marriage and everyone else took a back seat. I was snippy, angry and really just pissed at life.

I have always been an optimist and could find the silver lining in anything. Not finding anything positive in the situation I was living, I began to dislike who I was. I didn’t like the place I was in. And, only I could change that.

I don’t know what made me decide to enroll in horseback riding lessons, but I did. I had always loved horses and we did several trail rides pre-kids. But, I had never had any formal instruction. Something told me, “Just do it”. So, I did something that is not typical of me. I didn't overanalyze why I should or shouldn't take lessons. I just trusted myself and signed up for the following week. I just needed SOMETHING to get away. Anything to just be away from my life for a few hours. 

At the time of my first lesson, Amy was just returning to instructing from having had her second son. I believe he was not even 2 months old. Instantly we bonded over our children and the woes of motherhood. It was “soup for my soul” that I was able to lend her advice on making it through the murky waters of having two boys. It had been so long since anyone relied on ME for advice. 

But, what I had not known then, is how important Amy’s lessons in horseback riding would be for me. It still amazes me how I am able to generalize my relationship with horses to my “real life” herd. 

I made a promise to myself that I would find something that was just for me that did not involve, revolve or include my kids. When I committed to learning how to ride a horse, I also promised myself that I would not cancel it for anything. And, I stuck to that promise and it has helped me in more ways that I can recount. See, it’s easy to slip back into putting everything else first. And, one thing that I have learned is that I am a better person when I am strong enough to know that I need to take care of me.

It was dear Amy that put it to me in a way that really hit home. It’s like an airline emergency. You put your oxygen mask on first before you put your kids’ masks on. My inability, or shall I say my unwillingness to put myself first was directly affecting my family. I was not the best mom I could be, not the most loving wife and definitely not happy with myself. So, I slowly started to make changes. The first change I made was to keep going with my horseback because it was something I really enjoyed. I didn’t cancel it for anything. Nothing was going to go to hell in a hand basket while I was gone for 3 hours. NOTHING. One of the greatest lessons that Amy has taught me is that sometimes you have to kind of let go to regain control. It is certainly true on horses, but critically important in my life.

Riding a horse requires a great deal of trust - Trust with your instructor, Trust with your horse and trust of yourself. You can’t simply hop on a horse and expect to ride well. Same with life – you trust those you chose to surround yourself with and trust yourself with the decisions you make. With horseback riding and life, you have to nurture and develop your skills and with that, your confidence will grow.  

Riding had been a respite for me that replenished my depleting mom reserves. Even my husband could see how it was helping me in more ways than I had anticipated. Being the fantastic guy that he is, he took time off of work when I couldn’t get a sitter and never made me feel bad about needing that time for myself. He knew I needed it and I soon began to understand that I needed it, too.

I understand horseback riding is not for everyone. Not everyone will get out of it what I do. But, the important take away from this is that every mommy should set aside time, just for them, to do something that they love and that challenges them. What made this such a powerful and positive change in my life is because it is solely mine. It's independent of my life as mom and wife. I think it is so much more important since I've become a stay at home mom, too. It has been amazing how uplifting the simple act of dedicating some time to myself has been. I’ve been riding with Amy for about a year and a half and I’ll probably be riding with her until one of us in an old folk’s home!

If you are in the San Diego area and are interested in taking a turn in the saddle, I suggest giving Amy a ring. She's really the best and you couldn't pick a more serene place to ride. Visit her at

How do you replenish your mom reserves? How do you make time for yourself? I’d love if you’d share!

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