“Dad, I got this.”

“Hey Dad, do you think Papa would let us borrow Missy for the Summer so I can ride everyday?”

Emilia’s love for horses started when she was four years old. Whenever we would visit grandpa and grandma, Papa,would saddle up Missy and lead Emilia around for hours. Emilia quickly gained confidence in the saddle and her love and trust for Missy grew deeper after every visit. Last summer, her mother and I granted her request and we took Missy in on a Summer only commitment. During rides, Emilia would ask that I walk beside her “just in case”. During those rides/walks, Emilia would talk non-stop about dreaming to enter pleasure events at local fairs and rodeos. My response was the same every time, “Keep practicing, don’t give up. Someday it might happen”. We would ride/walk for miles. I loved it! Emilia’s confidence was lost when Missy stopped obeying simple riding commands and started to rear up when asked to be corrected. Emilia fearfully tired to break Missy’s bad habits while in tears as I barked, “Keep practicing. Don’t give up!” After two weeks, I came to the conclusion that Missy was not the horse for Emilia’s skill set and Missy was sent back to Papa’s. Emilia’s hopes and dreams were crushed. I thought she would never get in the saddle again.

The search for another horse came three months later. Emilia latched on to a fifteen year old buckskin that she proudly named General. Still reluctant from her last experience, Emilia would ask that I continue to walk beside her whenever she rode General. A bond quickly formed between the two of them, and after two weeks Emilia jumped on the saddle as I was holding the reins and said,

“Dad, I got this”

Emilia rides General everyday. She will set up pumpkins in our pasture to simulate barrels. She weaves in and out of anything she can find to simulate poles. Last weekend, she approached me and said, “Dad, I think I am ready to enter the exhibition barrels.” We entered Emilia and General in the exhibition barrels event at the local low-key rodeo, in which her time would not count towards competition points. As she was watching the other riders compete while waiting for her event to start, A friend, who was competing at the time, persuaded Emilia to take a run at the poles. The rodeo coordinator caught on to her friend’s plea and announced over the P.A., “Emilia, sweetheart, let’s give it a go”!

Emilia and General did great! It wasn’t about speed or competition. It was about doing. It was about overcoming a fear. It was about gaining confidence… I miss our “walks”, and like any father I don’t want my little girl to ever grow up, but I am extremely proud of the fact that she has gained the confidence to say,

“Dad, I got this”
Emilia’s First Go
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