Friday, December 9, 2011

On Horseback

I have a mental list of practical skills that are, while not actually so much practical in the strictest sense of the word, are nonetheless skills that are, rather, useful to have, since they involve activities that we may be called upon to participate in off and on throughout our lives on a casual basis, and that can also be quite dangerous if we participate without knowing what the hell we're doing.

Short and incomplete list:

  • lighting a bonfire, fireplace, or grill
  • swimming
  • ice skating
  • shooting a rifle or pistol
  • using a chain saw, wood chipper, or other large power tool
  • driving a stick shift
  • steering a boat
  • horseback riding
  • using a pocket knife
Sure, ice skating is more merely painful, and absolutely no fun, if the first time you've ever been on the ice is in a group outing with some of your buddies from college, but I know of plenty of idiots who got themselves seriously injured because they didn't know how to light a fire properly (hint: it doesn't involve a Dixie Cup full of gasoline), and I know of one wonderful child who was killed his first time on horseback, on a poorly-run, unsafe trail ride at a state park in Missouri that his parents didn't realize was unsafe because they were unfamiliar with horses, too.

But forget the fear-mongering--call my list, instead, a life skills bucket list, or a list of accomplishments for the well-rounded person. Whatever you call it, and lengthy intro aside, what I am wanting to tell you is that my little girls were basically living the dream last Friday:

First horseback riding lesson? Mark it off the bucket list, and you might as well just go ahead and skip Christmas after that, because it does not even compare.

The girls' horseback riding class at PALS featured a well-fitted helmet that each child wore at all times when around the horse (not just when upon it)--

--and a dedicated side-walker for each child, and a second walker holding a lead rope:

In addition, since PALS is primarily a riding-therapy program for people with special needs, the horses are invariably, calm, kind, patient, and well-trained. The absolute only thing that I had issue with is that they didn't require students to wear a heeled boot (just a closed-toe shoe), but I put my kids in heeled boots anyway, so no problem.

The girlies learned how to mount their horses, how to start them walking (with Willow's lazy horse Splash, this involved a big kick!), how to hold the reins and balance-- 

--how to steer--

--how to stop--

--how to hang on when they work up a little speed--

--how to take off their tack and groom them and make them comfy--

--how to talk about them using all the right words, croup and forelock and barrel and such--

--how to wait patiently, still and quiet--

--and how to put away all their tack and gear in just the right place, even if it's REALLY heavy:

Along with always looking out for things that I want the kiddos to know, I'm always looking out for sports and activities that have value for building them into the types of people that they'll want to be.

Forget the discipline, patience, affinity with another creature, willingness to grub and muck stuff that are of such value--it took a total of one lesson before the girls informed that they want to grow up into the type of person who was good with horses!

Well, okay.


Tina said...

Such a beautiful thing to watch! Here in Iowa, we have had a hard time finding stables close by that will give lessons to kids under 8. We will be moving to Montana soon and we hope that we have more options. Can't live without horse lessons!

julie said...

From what I've seen, it seems to take a lot of careful planning, vigilance, and manpower to make horseback riding lessons safe for children as young as my two, so I can see why most stable wouldn't even offer it. I think our particular program has an advantage there, since it's primarily a riding therapy program--they've had to do all that work already, and to an even greater extent, to make sure that their clients stay safe.

Anonymous said...

Horse riding is a wonderfully relaxing way to spend the day on your hen weekend.

Bryce Canyon Horseback Riding