Monday, August 21, 2006

A Dream Come True!

Today was the exciting and long awaited day, held on merely with baited breath all week long for both girls, as they mentally prepared for their first riding lesson. They read reference and novel books on horses, met our neighbor’s breeds at the fence and chatted with them (maybe sneaked an apple to them again??), and fessed up to viewing the films; "Dreamer" and "Felicity" for the umpteenth time, dreaming it was them on the horse. Not only was this day the first riding lesson, it was also the "first" ride on a horse for both. I know, I know, they are so deprived, not even having a ride on a pony in their youthful years before today. But, the opportunity hadn't presented itself, so in our defense, we plead not guilty.

The drive to the stables wasn’t as far as we had anticipated; therefore we were incredibly early, sitting a bit inside the vehicle until closer to our time. Actually it turned out the riding stables are only ten minutes at the most from our house which was terrific!

The riding instructor and I had spoken on the telephone and instantly I knew I’d like her. She is a very lovely English woman with thirty plus years of teaching experience. When we’d arrived, she had just been inside her home adjacent to the barns having a bite to eat, because her day camp registrants for the week had only left moments before we arrived, leaving her a quick few moments to run in and take a tasty bite. Therefore it was great to have her walk up the rest of the drive with us to the barns, having brief introductions, and then she began chatting along with the girls as they prepared for their big day. Students are categorized with letters from A to E, “E” being the earliest beginner, so both girls were in this category.

Her horse for the time was "Misty"

A tour was given around the sections within the stables, then horses assigned. The youngest girl’s horse/pony (just a little guy) had filing done on its hooves, much too short, causing soreness, so a substitute was available for her usage. I could see the excitement building as they toured the barns to view some thirty horses, and then were both thrust into everything straight away; perfect to give the first overall impression, that a horse is much more than just an instant riding buddy. I was only able to take two brief pictures, then realized the camera flash was spooking the horses, so that came to an abrupt halt.

Now to get the younger one's horse!

Brushing began as soon as the tying down was learned. Saddling up and placing the bridle into the mouth on each girls’ horse was a lesson in itself, and then equestrian helmets were borrowed from the riding stash before moving outdoors to the front paddock area. There is also an indoor paddock in the center of the barns, a riding ring allowing lessons and horse riding/jumping to occur all year long.

My horse is "Rocky" and I love him!

I could tell immediately the teacher was well experienced and sensed limitations early with each child she taught, her instruction for instance included perfect expectations for each girl’s ability, giving them confidence over their fears and nervousness, persuading them to take the lead for walking their own horses outside, across the driveway, and into the ring. There their first mounting into the saddle was completed, courtesy of a rubbermaid stair step. That was a tricky one. *wink*

Mounting the horse wasn't as easy as she thought

A lesson on reign handling

Once hoisted up high on their saddles, they still had their reigns in hand from the walk, so instructions on how to hold them were given, saddle positioning taught, stirrup footing checked, and bridle do’s and don’ts were enforced as the instructor gently and ever so patiently, took a lead in her own hands, also hooked up to both horses, and gave the girls a most pleasurable first experience lesson ever could have imagined! She not only taught them to ride gracefully with the importance of posture, obviously having an actual ride on the horse, but they also learned to stand/sit/stand/sit in as they began to trot about with big smiles plastered all over their faces.

Whoa there Rocky boy!

Somehow in the course of the initial lesson, the instructor spoke of one horse being a boarder there, with its owner attending her horse camp this week. Our eldest had a huge desire to attend something like a horse day camp but none seemed to be in our local area, so we thought. It just so happens that one gal registered has bowed out for the camp beginning next week, so now our older daughter will be filling up the void taking the last spot of the season. The camp runs from 8am-4pm M-F, with every aspect of horse ownership and riding taught during the sessions. Love it!

I love trotting!

For us, this is real life at its very best, the core of separating the ever dreamy horse riding assumptions, to a hard knock comparison of actually having to get down and dirty, touching and doing everything herself for the general care and maintenance of the animal, including cleaning out the stalls each day, for one truly, educational tribute to a genuine and smashingly great, real life in the barn learning experience… If it were her own horse, she would know the time investment necessary for its care, so during horse camp, this is the method taught and instilled, along of course, with the riding.

Once camp girls learn well, the instructor chooses some of the older ones to work for her in exchange for riding lessons. Her general pricing for lessons are the least expensive I've ever heard of, a wee fraction from those back home. Perhaps its the just the country life here, not so many city slicker folks around sending pricing sky high when yearning for their latest thrill, not sure. Supply and demand likely wins in the end with the country folk taking the lead in this area here. The bartering stuff though, this is where the best part

Horse whisperer

Stay tuned…