Our girls have been begging to start horseback riding lessons. When our schedules were busier, it was easier to say no. Then the pandemic cleared our calendar — and our no became a yes. This past week, I watched our daughters, ages 10 and 12, enjoy their first-ever horseback riding lesson at a nearby farm.

Horseback riding is socially distanced approved, I think.

Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher
Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher

This past winter, at a fundraiser for our son, my parents purchased a gift certificate for horseback riding lessons and gave it to our daughters. The owner of the business is a local young woman, and we want to support her as well as give our daughters a new experience.

Their excitement wasn’t without a little trepidation. Just days before the first lesson, one daughter said to me, “We saw people at Craig Hospital with injuries from horseback riding.” While she didn’t say anymore, I could sympathize with her hesitancy and uneasiness.

After experiencing trauma and the drastic changes that have followed in our life, I find myself shying away from doing anything that could possibly harm my loved ones. Social distancing has not been difficult for me. I’ve enjoyed the cocoon and feeling protected on the farm with our family.

Our daughters see their paraplegic brother and are reminded of his fellow patients at the rehabilitation hospital. They learned from firsthand stories that horseback riding accidents can cause spinal cord and brain injuries. Everyday activities, such as driving a car, riding a bicycle and most any sports, can result in an accident and injuries.

How long do we isolate to protect ourselves before we emerge to take on the new life ahead of us? I once was a horseback rider who got bucked off a couple of times and walked away from the hobby as a teenager. My dad encouraged me to keep getting back on the horse, but I didn’t. I know now, thanks to life experience, my dad was simply trying to get me to not give up and keep pursuing an activity I was interested in as a young person. Those memories came flooding back a few weeks ago, and I booked the horseback riding lessons for our daughters.

With warming sunshine after two days of rain, we set out for the lesson. As we drove a few miles together, the girls commented it was their first activity in nearly two months to attend in-person. After signing permission slips and learning about the horses they would be riding, “Fred” and “Duster," I watched our daughters learn to lead the horses into the barn. Then, they saddled them before heading out on their inaugural ride.

I stayed back in the barn. As they rode away, I looked over at a board on the barn wall. Inspirational sayings filled it.

Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward.

Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.

Your only limit is you.

Push yourself to do one thing outside of your comfort zone today.

Most of us have been staying put as much as possible to stay safe for the past two months. As I stood in the sunshine outside the barn, waiting for the girls to return, I was reminded of what emerges from an insect in a cocoon. A beautiful butterfly.

While I am not flying and have only watched my daughters saddle horses and ride away, I have emerged from the cocoon and am ready for beautiful, new experiences.

The girls returned with huge grins of happiness and excitement. One said, “I didn’t know how peaceful horseback riding is” and the other said, “Yeah, I am ready to go faster next time!” I repeated the quote from the barn: “Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward.”

We’re trying a new experience one week at a time.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.