Friday, September 13, 2013

My Little Equestrian

It’s no secret that Riley loves horses.  I don’t know why some girls love horses and others couldn’t care less, but Riley definitely fits into the former category.

Right before the end of summer I was able to snag a Groupon deal for private horse riding lessons.  Four 45-minute lessons for $50.  I called and talked to the owner to learn more about the lessons and ask some questions regarding safety and then went ahead an purchased the lessons.

Last week I called to set up her first lesson.  The owner of this place is very gruff on the phone.  She definitely doesn’t leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy about leaving my daughter in her hands so I figured I would stick close by during the lesson to make sure Riley’s well-being was top priority.

Riley and I arrived at the stable and, as I was sort of expecting, by all appearances it was a dump.  I had confided in my sister and mom that I was nervous about the place because it was almost too good of a deal but I was willing to take the risk.  Shortly after we arrived (and were greeted by no less than 4 rather large dogs…thankfully Riley loved them all) Riley’s instructor, Morgan, introduced herself.  She had a Flock of Seagulls hair cut with a bleach dye job that was growing out.  Again, based only on stereotypes, I was worried.  But, she was very  nice with Riley and led her into the barn to pick up her horse to be groomed.  As Morgan was getting ready to get Cherokee out of the stall the owner showed up and said that Lucy would be a better horse for Riley because Cherokee was not patient enough.  Morgan explained that she thought Lucy’s eye was still swollen from being kicked in the head by another horse.  The owner looked at Lucy’s eye and deemed her well. 

My anxiety went up a bit….what kind of mean horses was she boarding here?  Kicking each other in the face?

Meanwhile, as Riley and Morgan were leading Lucy out of her pen, Lucy stepped on her empty, upside down, feed pail.  Her hoof went right through the bucket and now poor Lucy has a bucket stuck on her leg and cannot get it off.  She, understandably, is freaking out.  Truth be told, internally, so was I.  Riley was oblivious to the whole ordeal playing with the goats and dogs big enough to take riding lessons on.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Ha!  See what I did there!) the owner showed up angry as can be over an empty feed pail left in the stall and summoned Morgan to go get the stable hand Travis.  She then said “Mom, come hold this horse”.  I obliged but as I was holding on I said “Here’s my dirty little secret.  My daughter loves horses, but I do not.  Unless I am on top of the horse riding it, I am scared.  So, I will hold this horse’s reigns for you, but if she makes any sudden moves, I’m outta here!”  The other stable hand showed up and I handed over the reigns and took Riley outside because the owner warned me that she would try not to swear at him but she wasn’t promising anything. 

Once Lucy’s foot was extracted from the bucket (Lucy almost passed out twice…it wasn’t pretty), they put a giant glob of eye medicine in her eye.  So, now Riley is about to get on a horse that was recently kicked in the head, traumatized by a bucket stuck on it’s leg, and is half blinded by thick medicine in one eye.  Nice.

Fortunately for my anxiety level, the lesson improved from this point on. 

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Riley enjoyed every second she was on that horse.  She will be riding without a saddle until she gains great balance.  So, her lesson mostly worked on Riley feeling comfortable on the horse.  To do this, they walked the horse in a constant circle and Riley had to lean forward and touch her left ankle with her right hand and vice versa.  Reach forward, reach back and basically twist and turn on this horse while it was moving and not use the handle at all.  At the end of the lesson they even had Riley standing on the horse!  She did try trotting but that needs some work (on Riley’s part…although Lucy wasn’t that into it either).  Riley was practically bounced right off the horse during their one attempt.

Riley has asked every morning when she wakes up if she gets to go to riding lessons.  It’s a nice change to have an activity one of my children actually wants to go to.  Hopefully the non-groupon rate isn’t too crazy once these four lessons are used up!

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