Friday, November 5, 2010

life with horses

B and i decided when the children were still only tiny, that we wouldn't push our horsey life on them. we wouldn't assume that they'd follow in our footsteps...and, in fact, moved away from that life altogether. granted, it took B's accident to prompt him to move away - there really wasn't a choice -- but the important thing was that if either one was to choose to have horses in their life, it was to be a choice freely made.

some time last autumn, Savannah decided she'd like to take riding lessons.  we asked her to wait until spring -- who wants to learn to ride in a Canadian winter? -- also to be sure it's what she really wanted..and not just a passing whim.

java -- naughty pony

fast forward to this autumn, and she's been taking weekly lessons since May.  it's all gone very well and she is,  genuinely and without bias (mostly), a natural talent.  her lesson time changed to Thursday evenings about two months ago, and since that's my evening to work, B has been taking her.  last night a shift cancellation meant i could take her and was very much looking forward to seeing how things have progressed.

but she's had a rough few weeks. she's been thrown twice in the last month - once it was unavoidable and she weathered it well, but the second time it was a ridiculous situation she was placed in where poor judgement on her instructor's part had the pony taking off at a smart gallop and although she almost stayed on, in the end, she fell off. that one, rattled her.  now, she tells me on Wednesday night, she's afraid to trot.


so what does a mother do?  there is a very real element in this horsey life that absolutely requires a measure of toughness. there's no pussy-footing around. she fell off and she will fall off again. ponies will bugger off; they'll buck; they'll do all manner of fiendish things. it's just a part of life with horses.  how to communicate that to her without making it sound like a 'suck it up' speech. when really, that's what it is.

looking very serious -- note the size difference between pony and (beginner) rider :(

so we drew some cards.

and the lessons to be learned there were simple but powerful.  i explained to her that the reason she was frightened was because she had forgotten. she had forgotten her own strength; she had forgotten that even though she was scared when she fell off the last time, she got back on. and i talked about how her pony would pick up on her feelings and that she needed to remember to keep her *heart balance* -- which is an over-simplified explanation of being calm and centered.

nevertheless, she was terrified. she was reluctant to trot and her pony picked up on that. so the poor assistant instructor had to run beside them to keep the little effer going (i'm not a fan of this pony -- he's naughty and he's a cheat....but i digress)...all the while, i hear Savannah whimpering and on the verge of tears.  oh, how i did not want to be one of Those Mothers -- you know the ones...the over-involved, bossy types that don't respect the boundaries of the teacher/instructor/coach-student relationship -- but when it got to the point where her coach was apparently intent on trying to push her through her fear rather than address it, i stepped in. i gave her a little pep talk and reminded her of needing to remember her *balance*....and the lesson ended much better than it started and she felt good about how things finished.

but we're also exploring other options. i went to a meeting afterwards of the local Pony Club chapter -- having just signed her's a whole different dynamic than the typical 'show stables' and will give her a better practical knowledge and skills of horsemanship rather than just the part where you're riding around.  it will also give us a network to find a place where there are ponies that aren't too big for the children riding them and....eventually, a pony of her own.

before all that though, she still needs to defeat the Java Monster.


  1. ok. first let me say: yet another way we're connected!! horses!! wow.

    yeah. i'm sorry to hear about your girl. fall is part of life, but i totally get not wanting her to have to go through these kinds of experiences. i'm just starting to look into a place for my pretty girl to take lessons. she's been wanting to for a good long time. i guess i've been find the right set of folk, who will listen to my concerns (lol) and are both gentle with children and horses!

    it can be difficult to balance everything (child's fear, your intuition, instructor's ideas/thoughts/experience/technique/etc.) but it sounds like you're doing really well considering!

    wishing your sweet girl some better experiences!! and you some blessed relief! :D


  2. thank you dear one!! ah, another barn-mama-to-be!! it's quite a different position to be in, that's for sure...

    and yes, striking that balance between all those things can be VERY hard --especially when really not wanting to be That


  3. This is a real tough one. I guess the only thing you can do is let your shiny guide you through it. But the whole toughness thing - it is such a valuable lesson, if you are ready and willing to learn it. I so hope she is able to step past it.... *hug*

  4. I can't ever imagine you being That Mother! It is hard though. i remember my son becoming afraid to go to rugby training - possible after a bad tackle, but i don't remember what. We talked about it and he decided he wanted to back off for a bit. His coach was very understanding about it, and within 2 weeks he was missing the whole thing and was desperate to get back. He got right into it then and even became team captain.
    I love using cards like that - they are always so spot on. I hadn't read your post until after I had written mine - honestly! xx

  5. Treat it like you would any other area of learning with her. If you treat it different because of parental background she'll sense it. It a field has it's 'suck it up' moments then the learner needs to learn that.
    Keeping impartial means just that - about the toughness as well as the fun.
    What I'm saying is - treat it with compassion but with firmness - this is part of the whole picture. If you kid glove it - when you wouldn't with something else, you'll give false impressions.

  6. excellent advice all around....thank you, friends!

    and definitely, there's no room for kid-gloving, that's for sure.



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