By Kim Chappell
This article was written back in 2016, a far cry from 2020 andwhat all of us are dealing with now. As I re-read this I realized how different the kids experiences this summer have been. There were no summer camps as Covid changed so much of what we do and how we operate. But with my re-opening on September 1, 2020 and kids returning to camps and Kinder Ranch and Ranch School, I once again heard the sounds of JOY that only kids can make regardless of all the stuff happening in the world today. Big, happy, smiling faces just to be back. Didn’t seem like they missed a beat although they missed so much since March 2020. And I found myself laughing out loud ALOT!
Again, I listened to what JOY sounds like and what it really is. Although this article is from a past summer it is a reminder that JOY is just around the corner, if you choose it. Kids have a way of bringing that home to roost. Those last few weeks of school seem to be the longest for kids. They sit at their desks, staring out the classroom windows, listening to the chirping of birds, feeling the warm breeze blowing through the screens, watching the fluttering of green as the sunlight dances on the leaves, and the daydreams begin. Daydreams of long summer days and freedom! When that last bell rings, as the kids gather all of their school belongings, as they clamber to get out the door, never fast enough, their spirits burst with that irrepressible joy that summer is finally, finally here! And not a moment too soon!
Here at the ranch the summer camp programs are in full swing with a full and busy summer ahead. For the first week I found myself just listening and watching the kids as they cleaned the stalls and groomed their horses; chatter alive with the joy of being on the ranch, working with the horses, being with new friends, and just being a kid. I smiled to myself often as I heard the bits of horse wisdom being shared from student to student; as I witnessed the spontaneous hugs from child to horse; as we stopped for break with the one inevitable student hanging back to spend a little more time with her horse; to the animated conversation at the picnic table about everything and anything.
I listened this week to the kids – unbeknownst to them – because of the naked joy that kids are so capable of experiencing without constraint. And I found myself longing for that same joy that seems to be moment to moment and worry free. As adults we seem to forget how to be in that place of joy with all that sits on top of us in our daily lives. So in an effort to join in, bum knee and all, I hopped on the most stubborn horse I own and rode with the kids this week. They applauded my very awkward mount from the ground (keep in mind the knee does not bend), and I laughed at myself while feeling victorious all at the same time. I rode with them in their serious moments of learning and in their “let it go” moments of playing horse games. I watched the heat begin to take its toll so we played ‘Swim in my Ocean’ on horseback and again I laughed at their squeals of delight when I unleashed the hose on them! When it came to the game ‘Search and Rescue,’ where the kids have to dismount and then mount again, I thought I would split a gut laughing as I watched their attempts at getting back on their horses once they were off.
Some of the efforts were truly creative while some were just downright funny. All of them were eventually successful and I have to commend my horses for their patience! They seem to know the gig and are ever so tolerant! And yet, in the joy of playing all of these games lays a tremendous amount of learning not only about the horses but more so about themselves and what they are capable of doing. As the kids know, I rarely listen to the words, ‘I can’t’, they know I won’t tolerate whining, and they know that I am all about ownership of the ride which equates to rider error 99% of the time versus horse error. Big stuff for kids but they get it and still continue to participate from a place a sheer joy. The horse show at the end of the week is filled with the jitters and butterflies. And the kids take this very seriously. We add music to the show while the kids perform an individual pattern and then a pattern as a group. It is very intense in its creation yet looks effortless in its performance.
Before each child sets off, I can tell they are nervous, so I offer them a few words of encouragement before sending them on their way with a ‘HAVE FUN.’ They finish their patterns with a bow and trot back to the other end of the arena always, always, always with a huge smile on their faces. When I ask, “Well, what did you think of your pattern?” The response is the same … “Fun … I want to do it again!” This is joy. The active ingredient to life. The element that gives teaching so much ammunition in really reaching the kids. The aspect that makes even the hardest of tasks bearable because somewhere within it is joy. Just pure, clean, fun with horses, the ranch life, and new camp friends. Kids don’t need to fabricate joy, it just is. As I closed my eyes to fully absorb all the sounds around me … the raking of a stall … the swishing of a tail … the humming of a student … the chatter of two young girls talking about braiding their horses tails … the crunch of a carrot followed by the nicker of the horse … and the various cadences in the kids tones as they talked over each other in excitement for the day … it spoke of one thing and the one thing that is true … JOY.
As they continued to work, I continued to listen and a smile filled my being for those same days of joy I experienced as a child embarking on the adventures of a new day. And yet, I wonder if it is something as adults we have lost a bit. While too, I hope as adults we can recapture that joy with the same naked freedom that kids seem to easily find.
Summertime. Fill it with joy. After all, we only have one life to live.
Kim Chappell, M.ED, Instructorand Equine-Facilitated LifeCoach. For further informationon riding programs and Equine-facilitated life coaching, you cancontact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org go to www.chappellranchllc.com