Saturday, August 06, 2011

Horses, horses, horses!

When ZBoy turned 12 last April, his grandparents gifted him with a Groupon for two horse-back riding lessons at a local stable.  Between camp and a somewhat hotter than usual summer, we decided to wait until August to redeem (It couldn't possibly be hotter in August than it was in June and July could it???  Well.. yes - it could.).  We drove out to the stable, but it wasn't clear where we were supposed to go, so we just parked and looked around.

As we rounded the corner of the stable, we found the office (with no one in it) and discovered a couple of horses out of their stalls being groomed.  The one in the foreground was huge.  His ears brushed the rafters of the stable.  The one further down was harder to gage.  Z turned to look at me with large eyes, saying "they're a lot bigger than I thought they were!!!"  It did make him quite nervous and he was definitely having second thoughts about climbing up on top of one.

The horse further down the way turned out to be the one he would ride and as we approached, he saw that the back of this horse was only as high as the instructor's shoulders and his.  Not nearly as scary as the giant we passed.  His instructor was a personable young woman named Boo and you could tell that she just LOVES teaching kids about horses.  It took a couple of saddle changes to find one that Z could ride comfortably, but only one shot at finding a helmet to fit his head.   As Boo saddled Honey (odd name for a male horse), she explained about the parts she was putting on and when Z asked about the bridle and bit, she demonstrated by telling him to put his fingers in his mouth to stretch it out, then to pull on one side or the other.  His head followed the pull, and on horses, their bodies follow their heads.  So if he pulled on the rein on one side, the horse's head would turn and his body would follow.  Made sense to me!  And more importantly, it made sense to Z.

They walked out to the ring and once they got out there, Boo showed him how to walk around the horse and explained about how horses see.  The conversation continued once he mounted and as they adjusted stirrups and talked about how to sit and how to use your feet in the stirrups.

She explained about reins, and how the mane is a good thing to grab onto because of the fat layer underneath...  and then, with a line attached, she started the horse walking around in a circle so Z could get a feel for what riding a horse was like.

After a couple of rounds, they begain some balance exercises.  Arms out to the side, both arms straight up, alternating arms up and down... ZBoy did very well!
The moved on to posting, which is what keeps your rear end from being bashed to death while riding.  It's using your legs with the motion of the horse to ease the up and down motion.  You stand up in the stirrups, legs bent and alternate between standing and sitting.  It does, however, give your legs a heck of a workout!!!  Z got so good at it that Boo decided to go ahead and let him start working on steering.  She kept him on the line for a couple of rounds, telling him what to do to get the horse to go where he wanted him to, then removed the line and told Z to ride towards a light post, then turn left, ride to the gate, turn right, go right up to the fence, then turn again.  It wasn't perfect, but by the time the lesson ended, Z could get Honey to go pretty much where he wanted him to go. 

In fact, Boo was confident enough in ZBoy's progress to let him ride untethered all the way back up to the stable.  There he dismounted, grinning like a fool, and he and Boo talked about his lesson and how well he did.  He thanked Honey for his patience and Boo for her help, then accompanied me to the car, absolutely glowing with joy.  We need to call next week to schedule the second lesson.  Since this was his first time on a horse, they recommended separating the lessons by a bit to let his body recover because he was going to be sore!  I want to make sure Darling Man gets to come next time (he had to work unexpectedly) because he NEEDS to see this. 

We celebrated with lunch at Crispers - and he's STILL grinning!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome for Z.
I still feel that way every time i go ride my horses.