On July 9, 2009, my beloved dressage horse Amiritta (AKA Suki) was critically burned when her barn caught fire. Suki's survival and recovery are considered miraculous. Her courage has made her an inspiration to people around the world. This is the story of our journey.....
Friday, March 15, 2013
Creating a horse lover for life (Part 1)
As my son Isaiah approaches his 7th birthday (well, he was when I started writing this....now he IS 7!) I admit to myself how much I envy him for being introduced to horses so early in life. In May 2006 when he was less than 3 months old, Isaiah attended his first horse show. Yes, it was the hunter/jumper Devon and not its dressage counterpart, but I felt that is was time to get him out. At one point he started to cry, and as I lifted him from his pram I heard a passer by say, "that sounds like a very young cry." I looked up and her companion smiled at me. "Baby's first Devon", she said. I returned her knowing smile. A few weeks later we drove to Gladstone for baby's first Festival of Champions, to watch the dressage. At age 5 months I sat him on my mare, Jenny's back, so that I could say "Isaiah was riding before he could walk!"
Silly milestones maybe, but I was so excited when he was sitting up and actually went on his first pony ride. I walked next to the pony holding onto Isaiah for dear life while he giggled with delight. My goal has never been to force him to ride, but to offer the opportunity to develop a love and respect for horses (and all animals) from the beginning of his life.
I think it is also extremely important for children to understand from the start that there is more to riding horses than just riding. Whenever I see children taking for granted the priviledge of riding and spending time with horses I want to scream. That's probably because I didn't start riding until I was 15, but had begged to ride since birth! It's not just about understanding the responsibility that accompanies the pleasure of riding, but getting to know your horse from the ground up. Even if someone does not actually own a horse, they have a responsibility to the horse they are riding....to groom it thoroughly, find its favorite itchy spots and know when that horse is not feeling 100% on any given day.
Once Isaiah was standing I would take him with me to visit the retired Jenny at Laurels Forge Farm in Unionville. Owned by my good friend Babette, my beautiful mare recived the highest quality of care. Surrounded by acres of woods with a branch of the Brandywine River running through it, the farm gave Isaiah the opportunity to see many horses and wander around the tranquil setting.
Another pet peeve of mine (which also extends to older children and adults) is when people do not pick up after themselves. Is it really so difficult to pick up a broom and sweep up the bits of dirt, manure, etc that have come from your horses hoof?? My 15 month old mastered that skill....his immediate reaction was to pick up a broom...
Or walk past an empty water tub/bucket, when the horse clearly needs water? Would you want someone to do that to your horse?
Even now at age 7 Isaiah walks into the barn and picks up a broom to clean the aisle. He was horrified a few months ago when one of the farriers (not the one that I use) left a mess in the aisle which included bits of nails. The child lectured ME on how bad this is and we promptly cleaned it up. Yes, I felt a moment of pride knowing that we are indeed on the right track. We talk about the importance of grooming horses, picking out their feet and checking them for wounds. I have explained to Isaiah that just like our pets at home the horses rely on us to feed and water them as well as keep them safe by providing a clean, dry stall and fencing in good repair. Surely he does not understand all of it but I see evidence of it in his behavior.
Some of my ideas were not quite so smart. Like the leadline class at the Devon Horse Show when Isaiah was just two years old. We had been going to Babette's regularly and Isaiah was riding Daisy Mae, an adorable pony who had taught Babette's daughter to ride many years prior.
I thought how much fun it would be for Isaiah to ride in the Devon leadline class. There are many things that should have been taken into consideration but I was far too busy romanticizing the Mother-Son Dixon Oval experience to waste my thoughts on practical matters! So Daisy Mae was pressed into service. She had been there/done that and was the perfect candidate for our outing. Off to Malvern Saddlery I went in search of the necessary accessories. The first pair of jods presented to me were $195 Tailored Sportsman. I did not think it was necessary for a 2 year old to wear $200 jods, Devon or not. The helmet was almost that much, but I was fine with that. Safety is very important. The paddock boots were also pricey, but I knew they would be used as well. There weren't any jackets in his size (thank goodness!). Next came gloves. "Really? I asked the clerk. "He's only two." "This is DEVON!" she shrieked at me. Fine. I bought the gloves, with visions of trying to pull leather gloves onto sweaty toddler hands. Maryland Saddlery was very helpful over the phone, pulling out a variety of jods and jackets and describing them. I was very pleased with my purchase when it arrived. We were set: shirt, tie, jacket, jods, jod straps, paddock boots, gloves, helmet, pony.
My outfit was another issue. For those of you who have not witnessed Devon leadline, the trainers or mothers also dressed to the nines. I am all for tradition and was actually looking forward to the whole thing....ignorance is bliss, for certain!
The day of the show I braided the pony who had been bathed and clipped for me the night before. I was really excited about packing the trailer and getting everything prepared for my son's first show. Showing is something I have always loved. The announcer at Devon told us to bring the leadline children dow to the arena 30 minutes prior to the class. Seriously?? Children ages 4 and under needed to sit and wait with their ponies for that long?? I was a fairly new parent and this sounded like it would not end well......
A bomb could have gone off and Daisy Mae would have just done her job!