On Saturday our Addie had a great day. She is quite horse mad right now, and wants riding lessons. Its a long story, but the other grandparent with whom we share custody, isn’t keen on the idea. To help Addie learn about horses and have the chance to be around them, we try to get her to events that will give her hands on experience.
The woman who trained our granddaughter and her horse in the hunter/jumper events put on a program for her younger students called a play day. The girls got to groom and bathe a small horse, lead and ride a horse, and play together in the outdoors on the farm. It was, as Addie said, “Totally Awesome!” And for my husband and myself, brought back happy memories of her mother learning horsemanship from one of the best trainers in our area.
There is something magical about being around horses. I know they seem huge, and they can be scary to little kids, but give them a minute or two with a horse sniffing them, nuzzling them, and kids just fall into love with the animals. There is nothing more sweet that seeing a child reaching up to hug a horse, and the horse all but climbing in their lap to hug them back.
Horses are wise, gentle, ornery, funny, goofy, spirited, and stubborn, just like people tend to be. A good match between rider and horse is a beautiful thing to see. It seems girls are more drawn to ponies and horses than boys, and it isn’t unusual to see a young girl out in the pasture with her best friend lying across his back and telling him all her troubles.
We used to live near a stable and on Saturday the parking area was filled with cars, trucks, and trailers as a gaggle giggling girls between six and womanhood took lessons, competed in events, cared for their horses and spent time making friends and enemies. Between the horses, dogs, people, teachers, and competition it was a noisy, joyous affair.
Girls learned responsibility, and how to work hard because their horses needed them to be able to understand and be aware of problems. Horses learned to work with the girls, treating them with gentleness and making them earn their respect. Having a horse is a lot more work than most people expect. It is an every day responsibility, and there is always something to take care of, be it making sure they horse stays healthy to keeping up with the maintenance of the animal. Brushing, shoes, trimming, checking for sores, cuts, making sure their teeth are in good shape, it is always something. Then there is the equipment that requires care. A good trainer will make sure the girls know how to keep their saddle and bridal in good condition, how to choose the right bit for their horse, and how to get their horse ready to ride.
Some girls have full board horses, where farm hands feed and water the horses, and clean the stalls for them. Personally, I think it is important that a horse owner take care of their own horse every day themselves. Nothing like cleaning out a dirty stall to teach a child hard work. Hauling in hay, grain, and water gives them a chance to understand horse nutrition and health. Overseeing the horses makes them more than a weekend owner, it makes them understand the needs of their horse and how to relate to him better.
I always get a kick out of watching a girl learn to make her horse do as she asks instead of doing what he wants. It gives a girl courage to face down a stubborn 1500 pound animal with nothing more than grit and her 100 pounds of determination. I have seen girls take a jump and go head over heels off a 16 hand horse, just to get up, brush off the dirt and climb right back on to try again. No tears, no self pity, just hard core determination to learn how to do things right. It is a beautiful thing to watch.
So, our Addie isn’t taking lessons, yet. But she is learning her way around a horse and how to care for one from the hooves up. One day we will watch her compete like her mother did, and bring home a blue ribbon. But the point of competing, to us, isn’t the winning, it is learning how to cope with losing, and still getting back on her horse and trying again until she conquers everything ahead of her. And until then, she will have fun loving on horses every chance she gets. I love being a Nana.