Thursday, March 21, 2013

Creating a horse lover for life (Part 2)

So I ended part 1 of this two-part post outside of the ingate of the Dixon Oval at The Devon Horse Show, waiting with my two year old son, Isaiah, our borrowed pony, Daisy Mae, a friend who came to help and my husband.  Wearing a carefully selected Audrey Hepburnish dress, hat, white gloves and Mary Janes with kitten heels I tried to keep Isaiah entertained.  The wait seemed forever and to this day I would love to know whose brilliant idea it was to have very young children wait outside the arena for 20 minutes before being called in for the class.  I did not have high expectations for this class.  There were more than 40 entries and Isaiah was the only 2 year old.  Combined with the politics associated with this class (often there are children of celebrity riders participating) I thought of it as an extended pony ride, but all dressed up.  Okay, that is not entirely true.  I had visions of walking out with my adorable child on the adorable pony with a blue ribbon in hand.  The same thing happens when I take a young horse to a show for the first time.  Aloud I say: "This is just a learning experience.  I want the horse to have a good experience.  The score does not matter."  Inwardly I am saying: "WIN! WIN! WIN!"  I can't help it.  It's just who I am. 

So child on the pony and in we go!

on the pony!  That's me in the polka dot dress

Off the pony....
The dixon oval seems REALLY BIG when you are carrying a toddler, leading a pony and walking through sand footing while wearing a dress and heels, trying to maintain that Town and Country Magazine look....

Back on the pony....
We continued this pattern for 15 minutes.  Seriously, they kept us in there for that long.  Come on, does it really take that long to judge children at a walk??  But oh yeah, I held out for the entire time.  "Mommy, off pony!"  "Mommy, on pony!" 
I never took into consideration that whenever Isaiah rode there was never a time factor.  Live and learn.  While the experience was not quite what I had anticipated I am glad that we did it.  We have our participation ribbon which came with a horse head lollipop. 

The happy child, back in the truck.  Don't worry, the emergency break was on!

I continued to bring Isaiah to see Jenny (who was QUITE fascinated by him!) and ride Daisy whenever possible.  My goal was to make him comfortable around horses, even if he never became a rider.  With horses and riding such a huge part of my life I felt that he at least needed a certain comfort level and respect while in barns and at shows.  

Shortly before Isaiah's 5th birthday I decided to see if he was ready for riding lessons.  Without a suitable horse of my own (a 17.3h horse recovering from burns and a 16.3h 4 year old) I sought outside expertise.  The first barn that I took him to seemed okay safety wise, but it seemed to be more of a glorified pony ride than enything else.  Isaiah was comfortable with the exercises, but the instructor didn't seem to really know how to teach very young children....

So we stopped for awhile.  When I moved Nikki to a hunter barn I decided to try again, even though I would have preferred basic dressage at first.  The lessons were okay but there did not seem to be a real focus on developing the seat.  When they started doing a group lesson instead of private I decided to stop.  Two children on ponies who have not developed a seat, can only sort of stear at the walk does not work well.  I really did not feel like we were getting anywhere.

I continued to bring Isaiah to the barn where Suki was so that he would still spend time with the horses.  He was really not ready to accompany me to the barn when I would be riding because I don't think that I would have been very focused.  And there are WAY too many things for a 5 year old to get into!  I have seen plenty of people bring very young children with them while they ride, but it always seems unsafe and the kids manage to disrupt everyone else who is trying to ride.

I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found L.  We shared the same teaching and riding principles and she is totally no nonsense.  As a dressage and event rider from the UK she also teaches along the British Horse Society principles.  Isaiah would also be expected to learn how to care for the horses and tack, another important part of the responsibility associated with riding horses. 

Isaiah and Prissy, summer 2013
They do a lot of work on the lunge to develop an independent seat, then work off the lunge to work on stearing and control. 

Isaiah and Blackie January 2013
So I think we are really on the right track.  Isaiah seems to be improving, and can post to the trot fairly proficiently (not consistently, though).  He seems to enjoy it and has learned that a certain amount of work and care is an essential part of being around horses.  From birth, Isaiah has associated me with horses and riding, and I am sure he realizes that there is a huge commitment.  If that hasn't turned him off, nothing will!

Of course, for the past 3 1/2 years he has also been dealing with the aftermath of the fire, and he understands that Suki requires more care than most horses.  But he likes to see the graft and how much better it is.  He also refers to "the bad man who set the barn on fire". 

There are days when I prefer to go to the barn by myself, but when Isaiah asks to accompany me I bring him along unless I will be riding. 

Nikki looking for treats

Isaiah and Suki

So hopefully through all of this I am creating a horse lover for life.  One that respects horses and cares for them, whether he continues to ride or not.


  1. Suki we love u we are thankful you are k. And you have a good mom that love you so much. Suki keep your head up with hugs and kiss. :-)

    1. Thank you. Suki is a special girl. We appreciate the support from so many people around the world. I think that as difficult as the fire and aftermathe were, the fact that Suki can inspire people and make them smile is the silver lining....

  2. Does Isaiah prefer one horse over the other?

    1. It was easier for isaiah to learn to post on Prissy because Blackie has a choppier stride. But he seems to enjoy riding them both. He has learned to mount both from the ground which I love!