Last night, C had another riding lesson! This has been kind of a rough week for her - UTI symptoms on Monday, and since then she's bit hit with horrible allergies. (Why couldn't I have passed on some of my good traits to my daughter?!) She's coughing up a storm, sneezing, and has a constantly running nose - poor baby. I think the allergy meds are finally kicking in, though. She seemed a little better this mornin.
DH came home a little earlier than usual, and we had an early supper (grilled steaks, potatoes, and green bean casserole - yum!), then he had to leave again to help his dad with a tractor. I wanted to do something fun with C, and the weather was fabulous (we're in a cold spell for August in NC - highs are in the mid 70s this week!!), so I asked if she wanted to ride Sunshine. Of course, she said yes!
I firmly believe that children should be taught all aspects of horse care if they want to ride. I worked at a barn once where the younger kids just showed up and us instructors had the ponies tacked up and ready for them; all they had to do was hop on and ride, then leave (instructors had to cool down, untack, and take care of all the ponies - and usually it was just me to 9 or 10 ponies...but anyway). They learned to ride, sure, but they never learned how to care for a horse, not even to put the saddle on one. I hated that. When I teach lessons, I make sure the kids learn everything - even how to clean tack. Its important.
C has been helping me feed the horses at night lately. She says she's a "grown up" and a "good helper" and that we make a good team. Where does she get this stuff? ( : Anyway, I think its good for her to have some responsibility. DH says I'm just teaching her to feed the horses so I won't have to do it one day....maybe (*wink, wink*). At any rate, she loves helping me. I'm still trying to get her to understand that horses can hurt you....without her actually having to be hurt! She has no fear whatsoever of horses. None of mine will purposefully hurt you, but accidents happen - they could step on her foot, bump into her and knock her down...the possibilities are endless. Of course, as a mother, I'm constantly on the lookout for stuff like that. Its exhausting!
Anyway, last night, first C helped me brush Sunshine...
Obviously, she can't help with the tack, but I made her pay attention to what I was doing and told her the names of everything. No, I don't expect her to remember much of it yet, but repetition is key! She did ask good questions, like why does the bit go into the horses' mouth, and why do you have to hold the reins.
Next, it was time to get up there! (I have to find a toddler sized helmet. I mentioned that to C yesterday, and she didn't like the idea of having to wear one, but she'll get over it.)
When I teach riding lessons, I have all my kids (and adults) do stretching exercises. Its always a good idea to stretch yourself out before any exercise, of course, but it also helps to get you comfortable in the saddle. With kids who are terrified to be up so high by themselves, I do quite a bit of stretching exercises, and it really helps them get over their fear. C doesn't have any fear, but I still want her super comfortable in the saddle.
Her ride was pretty short - it was getting late, and Sunshine was hungry. But after stretching, I showed her again how to tell Sunshine to "woah," and I introduced steering. C didn't quite get that one, but that's okay. She also started making a kissy sound to get Sunshine to walk. Oh! And the most impressive thing C did last night - she got up to vertical position!! If you're not familiar, vertical is what we say when we mean stand straight up in your stirrups. Its good for really getting heels down and for stretching the legs. Its also good for balancing. I also use it a lot to get kids comfortable in the saddle (its scary standing up to be even taller up there!). I told C I wanted her to do it, and explained what I meant, and she said "okay!" and popped right up! I was so proud. Often, going to vertical is scary for even kids who are otherwise comfortable on a horse. Not my baby. ( :
C had so much fun, and I feel like she learned something at the same time - so win/win. I can't wait for the day when we can ride side by side!