Her instructions were sparse but concise:: Hold the reins loosely in one hand, the saddle horn in the other. How you hold the reins will determine how quickly they trot, which direction they’ll go and when they’ll stop. Stay in a single file and keep one horse length between you and the rider in front of you. Get too close and things could get kicky.

And with that, our tentative group took off. Wordlessly, we clung to the instructions with our life, almost as tightly as we clung to the reins and saddle horn.

Single file. One horse length apart. Single file. One horse length apart.

The only sounds were the clippety clops of hooves on solid ground, the occasional horse snort and my daughter behind me, murmuring sweet words of encouragement to her horse Jadie. I found strength in her apparent ease and started to relax into the beautiful being I was fortunate enough to get to ride…Legend. An absolute miracle of strength and grace.

And still…this. Single file. One horse length apart. Single file. One horse length apart.

Then we came to the forest. The clear and solid ground gave way to a rocky path made muddy by the torrential rains of the day before. Deeeeeeep mud, the kind that would suck your boots off of your feet and keep them as punishment for daring to pass through on foot.

Our horses paused before each new patch of mud, considering how best to navigate them. In an attempt to obey the “single file, one horse length apart” mantra, we slipped and slid and struggled to keep them in line with the horse in front.

Let your reins slack and let them lower their heads, coached our guides. They’ll find their best way forward.

And so we did. And so they did.

Our horses picked their own path, no two following the same route. We became a herd rather than a line. Up hillocks and through tight brush, they found their way to the clearing beyond. Back in the sunshine and once again on solid ground, we walked, then trotted, then cantered (never quite getting to gallop) back in our single file formation.

It’s like this.

When the sun is shining and the ground is solid, it’s easy to stay the course, hold the focus and keep on track. When the rains come and the path becomes muddy, that’s the time to lower your head and trust that you know your best way forward. No one else can tell you what that way is, Dear One. It may not be what you planned, it will seem far from perfect, it may feel tight at times, and it may even still be slippery, but you are getting there, step by step, step by step. To the gorgeous clearing beyond.

Yes, you are.