Valuable life lessons straight from the horse’s mouth

When I was in high school, I used to take horse back riding lessons every week. I loved (and still love) even just being around horses. After a couple years of riding at the same barn, my coach moved her program to a new one so I followed her there. That is where I met Molly.



Molly is a mule. She belonged to the owner of the barn to where my coach had moved. Her owner decided that, to get Molly back in shape and back into work after some time off, that she would add her to the lesson program.

My coach called me one day after school to check what time I’d be coming up for my lesson. She told me she had a new project for me. I was throughly surprised when I got to the barn and saw my lesson horse was now a lesson mule. So I guess I wasn’t really doing horseback riding anymore, more like mulebackriding. I thought it was pretty funny but, little did I know, this stocky little mule would teach me some important life lessons.

The biggest challenge of working with Molly was actually catching her to bring her down to the barn. I was warned that it would take some effort so I brought up some carrots hoping to entice her with them. My first attempt, I offered her the carrots, she took them, then ran off with her friends. I proceeded to chase her around the paddock (which was easier said then done considering it was a steep hill) and eventually caught her. Molly- 1, Kathleen- 0.

The view from the top of the paddock

The view from the top of the paddock

The next time I went to get Molly, I decided on a new tactic. I would feed her treats and attach the lead rope to her halter while she was still eating them out of my hand. In hindsight, it was a good idea but that cunning little mule caught on quickly and took off as soon as she saw my hand move towards her halter. I then proceed to follow along in the wild goose chase that she so thoroughly enjoyed to play and, eventually, caught her. It was now Molly- 2, Kathleen- 0.

By the third attempt, I decided this would be the day: I was going to catch her on the first try. I brought up an arsenal of tricks: carrots, grain, and treats. I chased her up to the run-in shelter they had for the horses and cornered her there. I fed her a treat and latched my lead rope onto the halter. Finally, I had won! Molly then devoured the rest of the treats as a reward for her not being as stubborn. Molly-2, Kathleen- 1.

I didn’t think much of it then but, looking back, that whole charade taught me one important things: you can be as stubborn as you want about your goals but you need to be flexible with your methods. I wasn’t going to give up trying to catch Molly but I needed to try going about it differently if I wanted to succeed.

I see now that learning that lesson was oh-so-important. Gastroparesis has thrown a wrench in my plans in terms of education and just my life in general, but I’m being stubborn about my goals. I still want to accomplish everything I had planned before, I just am going to need to go about it in a different way. It used to stress me out when I couldn’t follow through with things but I have learned to be okay with it. Changing your plans doesn’t mean giving up, it just means taking a better road to get there and that’s perfectly ok!

Molly and I right before I left for university

Molly and I right before I left for university

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