By Joy Riccardo

The famous Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears. When the student is truly ready, the teacher disappears”. In this story, my version goes like this, “the student was still not ready as the teacher disappeared”. Sometimes you have to go it alone and believe in yourself. Or, you can stay home and look for lucky pennies in your backyard all the while opportunity is knocking on your front door. Either way, at some point, if you’re ever going to really live your dream life, you’re going to have get out and just do it. And that’s exactly what I was going for when I offered to check on the horses, after Cathy, my horse handler teacher, decided to take a well-deserved rest and not come out to the barn for a week.

“I can do this”, I thoughtfully repeated over and over again. “I can do this”. “I do have what it takes to go out to the barn by myself and attend to the horses”. I say this out loud as I pull into the parking lot of the barn. I admit being out here on my own is unsettling, and yet, I am compelled to see this through.

Cathy has been teaching me for quite some time now and there’s no sense in denying the extraordinary level of progress I have made in such a short period of time. I’m only eight years new to the way of horses and I have learnt more in the last eight months with Cathy than I have in all the previous years. Her respected expertise combined with her calm confidence is what gives me this amazing assuredness to venture out here on my own.

So on this particular special day, I walk sure-footed into the barn, with jubilance in my step, a cheerful face and a wink to the heavens. This is going to be fun. Being around horses is serious business, especially when caring for yours and their safety, but I also hear Cathy’s words in my head, “being with horses; interacting, relating, and getting to know them, is pure delight.” I am looking forward to that.

I choose to visit with Waverly first. A most dashing Polish-Arabian gelding, so much so, If he were human, he would surely be on the cover of GQ (Gentleman’s Quarterly), hash tag…..ooh la, la… la……Waverly’s spirited personality is matched to perfection with his whiskey colored coat and raven black mane.

What I love about Wave, as we call him, is his playful curiosity. Wave wants to know what you have in your pockets, what’s on your mind and what’s in it for him. He wants to know who’s in charge, what’s on the itinerary, and does he get a say in any of it. If you can answer all of his concerns, satisfy his inquisitiveness and keep things interesting, he will willingly, even eagerly, join you. I have watched Cathy countless times successfully interview with Waverly for this leadership role and now it is my turn.

As I am recalling and writing this I have a grin from ear to ear because, on this particular special day, with all my confidence summoned, and feeling Cathy’s essence standing right next to me, I boldly stepped into the leadership role with Waverly and he freely offered me the job. It was exhilarating and triumphant all at the same time. For those of you who remember the movie “Flashdance”, “What a Feeling…..!!” comes front or foremost to my mind.

If you were there watching, this is what you would have seen. Me walking over to Waverly’s stall and opening the door. Saying hello and quietly putting his halter and lead rope on. Guiding him into a very large arena and closing its door. Walking with him to the middle of the arena and removing the halter and lead rope. I then calmly gesture to him to go and play. He turns away from me and proceeds to explore, roll, run, kick up his heels, turn around, run faster and then even faster. When he stops, he turns to me with two eyes, which Cathy has taught me is a horse’s way of acknowledging and showing interest. I walk over to him and together we walk back to the middle of the arena. Patiently he stands while I put his halter and lead rope back on and we return to his stall. There is a bucket of grooming tools waiting for us and while he eats an apple and some hay, I merrily brush his entire body including his feet. (A rather huge “feat” in and of itself), pun intended. I then re-halter him and walk with him to an outside paddock where he spends his afternoon.


I had two more adventures on this particular special day, one with Mascara, a quiet sensitive mare, and Daisy, a good-natured pony. Two more amazing explorations, discoveries and mastery of my confidence skills. And, two inspiring stories for another day.

To have had this one on one experience with each of these dynamic horses, each one with their unique and potent personality, was a great big huge venture for me. It was a colossal confidence builder on so many levels, not just with handling horses but with other areas of my life as well.

Inherently we all have confidence living within us. Yet, sometimes, she is asleep, waiting for the perfect moment to fully awaken and emerge. As in ALL aspects of ourselves, we need her now not later to be fully front and center, to be completely present and wholly active every day, not one day in the future.

No matter what we do with our lives, confidence matters. Without it we shrink from our brilliance and fall short of our best selves. Don’t let this happen to you. Once you have her attention there is no turning back. Once she is roused she will gift you with her superpower of self-assurance and you will then walk sure-footed in your chosen arena. Once you declare and accept your alignment with her, there is no looking back, for in all you do, wherever you are, she will always have your back.

Is your confidence sleeping? Are you ready to awaken your confidence superpower? Are you ready to grab the halter and lead rope and discover the possibilities waiting for you to explore? The horses have a way of gifting you their charming persuasion of presence and whatever you’re looking to awaken within you, you can be guaranteed the horse will release your “Kraken”. In a good way!

I invite you to check out Life Lessons with Horses……it’s not about riding, it’s all about YOU!