I found horses at Rose Ridge Farm. I was more or less 8 years old, exploring the backyards of my neighbors alongside my brother, when we happened upon a towering red barn hidden behind a wild nest of pines. We stepped over creeks, hopped over ditches, until we landed in a different world with our little big smiles, smelling sweet hay and honeysuckle in the buggy, Georgia air.

I kept horses with me through my awkward pre-teen years (the awkwardness continues to haunt me). I rode and I competed through elementary school, middle school, and high school. In college, I trekked to the barn on and off, balancing as I could on my path through early adulthood.

Horses continued in the year after college, until I moved to Chicago and began a fresh journey making sense of who I am as a social worker. Along the way, I’ve been volunteering with kids and horses, I’ve been writing about horses, I’ve been reading about horses; however, it’s been a bit over three years since I, myself, have been on the back of a horse–the longest hiatus I’ve known.

Next Saturday, I’ll be making my way to the northern state line, about an hour’s drive. I don’t yet know what color that barn will be. I don’t know who will be there, what horses I will ride. But I do know that I’ll be wearing my little big smile. I’ll close my eyes and think of that day we found Rose Ridge together. I’ll smell the sweet, sweet hay, wearing my heart on my sleeve, grateful.

All this to say, I can’t wait.