It's Saturday today, a big day.  We are driving to a high school for equine studies, it is their open day today. My daughter asked me: "Is it normal that I have a knot in my tummy?" I say: "Yes, that is perfectly normal. We are going to see a school we are you have never been before and where you would like to study for four years, this is big. So it is perfectly normal to feel a bit nervous."

First stop today is the equestrian center of the school. Yesterday we carefully planned our day, so we could see all the demo lessons and workshops. When we arrive a workshop on lunging and rider fitness is in full swing, the next workshop is about evaluating the exterior of a horse. We are offered a clipboard and my daughter is asked to step forward and join in in the exercise. She hesitates, but goes. I’m so proud. The teacher is kind and explains in detail and asked the girls questions they can answer.  And if they cannot yet, he explains a bit more and sets them up for success. I’m loving it.

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Next workshop is about jumping, it warms my heart to see that the girls riding in the demo lesson are slightly nervous but confident and empathically coached by  their instructor. The horses look content, the aids are soft, this is really nice. Last workshop we’re going to watch for today is dressage. Again, horses looking content, riders giving soft and honest aids, being skillfully and wholeheartedly coached by their instructor. Wow, this looks like a really nice school, I can't help myself thinking. I see my daughter starting to pick up a smile, I haven’t seen in weeks. She struggling right now in her current school.

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Next we head out to the school where they would have their theory lessons. There is a buzz, the school also has multiple areas to study, like farming, landschaping, animal management, so there are a lot of kids and parents wandering around.  There are animals all over and the atmosphere is warm and kind. We are being welcomed by students helping us sign in and find our way to the classroom where the presentation will be held. A teacher tells all about their educational program and the different areas to study in the high school for equine studies. She’s passionate, warm, and also very clear about what to be expected. And what the requirements are to get into the school. My daughter is slightly on edge:  "Mom, those are a lot of goals I still have to reach before I can start to school." I say:  "Girl, you can do it.  We can start training tomorrow, you know now what you need to be able to do to be accepted into school, we are already working on those goals anyway. It’s going to be fine, you can totally do this."

At the end of the presentation we hang back, my daughter has a couple more questions. When it is our turn to talk to the teacher,  my daughter totally breaks down after two words. I’m baffled. What is this?  She starts to talk about all the stuff that’s going on in her current school and how unhappy she is right now. By far most of her teachers do not support her in her choice to study equine studies and her classmates don’t take her seriously either. Their arguments are: There is no work in horses. You cannot make money in horses. There are no jobs in horses, you cannot make a career.  This is just a dream. Dream on girl, but find a study for a real job. One of the mission statements of her current school is "We will help you become who you are". This is heartbreaking for her. And so not true of course, she has me, her mom, as an example. I made a career in horses. And as the teacher just told us, there are 10,000 to 12,000 thousand jobs in our country in the equine bussiness. And over 90% of the students has a job straight after they finish the school. I wonder: How come my daughter feels so safe in this school to break down and cry. Talk to a teacher she has never met before and talk about her struggles of feeling of not belonging in her current school. What is it about this place? When I think about it for two seconds, it’s crystal clear: this place feels safe. This is where she belongs and she feels it, she is accepted for who she is. And that it why she can allow herself to be vulnerable and share her story. 

Our drive home was another adventure. A dog suddenly runs in front of our car, we stop and catch it and my daughter has to be brave once more today. She has to walk onto a random farm, and call out to a strange lady and ask if she knows this dog, scary stuff. She tries to wiggle out of it,  says: "You do it!" So I give her a choice: "Can you hold onto the dog, then I’ll talk to the lady?" That was too scary too, so she went and asked the lady if she knew this dog.  Luckily she did, it was one of the neighbors dog. So she brought a leash and we could be on our way home again. I told my daughter:"I’m super proud of you, well done. And I’m so happy that you have found a school where you want to go next and we will support you in every way we can to help you reach your goals to get into the school." Finally at a school where she can be, who she truly is. 

I’m so grateful to my mentors Rupert Isaacson, Iliane Lorenz and all of the other trainers, practitioners, mentors and students, the whole Tribe, from New Trails Learning Systems to give me the knowledge and skills to help so many people to overcome their struggles and be brave. Today I witnessed the fruits of that labor with my own daughter. 'Follow the child' is one of our core guidelines and in this case, it meant following my daughters wish to become an equine professional. I know, it’s not mainstream, but do I really want her to be mainstream? Does that even exist? We want our daughter to be her unique self. And this is who she is.
That insight lead to this decision: I'm gonna talk to my husband and we are going to send her current school principal an email. We need to talk to him, enough is enough. So email is sent, let's see if he agrees to listen to us. Her current school was meant to be the light at the end of the tunnel of primary school. But it turned out to be another tunnel. Are we going to settle for surviving the upcoming one and a half year? Or are we going to fight for her to be in a school where it is emotionally and physically safe, she can be herself, where there is kindness and fun. We choose the latter. 
But we can’t do it alone. She needs teachers who are supportive, she needs classmates who are happy with themselves and happy with each other, to make the school a safe place. We’re not there, not by far, but we’re gonna fight for it  it. I’m also very grateful to Bréne Brown for giving me the knowledge and the language for 'Daring Greatly', being brave and daring to be vulnerable and become yourself, no shields. A wholehearted life, that is what we want for her. And we are nog going to settle for less. The sky is the limit.

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