Dear 17-year-old Kaitlin,
I know you are struggling right now. You have never felt thin enough, pretty enough, or good enough. Music helps you cope, but your insecurities are crippling you. You miss horseback riding. You miss your first pony, Tobey. You miss the unconditional love that animals bring. But keep your eyes up, darling. Four years from now, you will return to the equine world, you will have that unconditional love again, and your insecurities will stop paralyzing you.
Currently, though, you have lost your identity, and you need help finding yourself again. Your horseback riding fall resulted in a concussion and the temporary end of your riding career. You barely attended your first two years of high school because of the headaches, and there was even a rumour that you had passed away. Now, you are pursuing a new passion – photography – but cameras cannot love you back. Taking photos for your model friends is turning into a chore, and you feel that there is a high probability they are only using you. Your self-esteem is plummeting. You feel unattractive and alone. But please don’t abuse your body to look like your “friends”. Don’t become obsessed with food. Please consume more than just water and cucumbers. Running and walking over 20km a day will only ruin your social life and your joints. Diet fads, forcing yourself to be sick, and not eating will help you lose weight fast, but the insecurity will remain. Losing 50lbs will not stop you from looking in reflections to ensure you are not bloated. Don’t cause permanent damage to your body with quick fixes, it isn’t worth it.
Instead, eat healthy food, never skip breakfast, walk when you can, cry if you need to, and talk to your sister. Move back home when crippling depression and paralyzing anxiety strip you of your desire to live. Reflect on what makes you genuinely happy and return to the equine world again.
Horseback riding is therapeutic for you, so respond to that ad on Facebook. Watch how directing your attention to a gentle, chestnut gelding will stop you from overthinking and allow you to focus on someone else. You become the best version of yourself when it is no longer about you. Lexington will demand attention, seek treats, and ensure you give him all your love – after all, he will give you all of his, unconditionally. Lex will teach you patience and delayed gratification through saddle and ground work, and you will slowly regain your confidence. Your bond with Lexington will become unbreakable.
You’re going to take a fall or two, but it will teach you resilience, and you will get right back on. You will cry out of shock and embarrassment, but remember, everyone falls off sooner or later. Lexington will need constant exercise throughout the week, so instead of walking over 20km, work with him. I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect, but bad days will be made better with Lex by your side.
Recently, I was asked to write a piece about identity in the equine world. Defining my identity is difficult as I am only now starting to feel the pieces coming together. I will say, though, that seven years out of the saddle was far too long. I am beginning to see myself as Lex’s fearless leader, and my confidence outside the barn is growing. To this day, I still struggle with insecurity, and you will too. However, I can assure you that Lex will help redirect your attention when the anxiety is overwhelming. So, Kaitlin, take each day like you are approaching an oxer – determine your distance, keep your heels down, take a deep breath, and soar!
Eyes up, Darling. The next jump is nearing.