After looking for quite some time for a good, experienced person to give the girls horse lessons, we finally came across the right cowgirl-at the right price.
Recently, a post came across our homeschool forum about a lady who wanted to give lessons, who's been around horses her whole life and "just loves them". How romantic, huh? So I gave her a call. I explained what I wanted from lessons: horse etiquette, grooming lessons, a good healthy dose of fear injected into my eldest about the possible dangers of horses-since she has none. We agreed on everything and she assured me that these things were included in her lessons. Perfect!
It was extremely windy that day which, Michelle began to explain, in turn made the horse, Eldorado, a little skittish-which in turn made me a little skittish. Michelle said that her horse is very old and very tame and would never bolt or anything like that. (Who said anything about a bolting horse? Clearly this woman doesn't know that those sorts of realities she should just keep to herself and not even mention to a city slicker, already nervous, mother of three little angles that mean more to her than anything in the whole world and who would totally flip out if the horse bolted or anything like that. But I'm sure that since she said that her horse wouldn't bolt, he won't...right?) She also said this was good experience for the girls to be around a skittish horse....ummm, oh, I see. Ok....I guess. I mean where is my cowgirl spirit after all!
OK, I'll be honest, I was very close to calling off the lesson. He was indeed skittish and jumpy. At one point when the horse was tied to the barn and Katherine was petting his neck the wind gave a big loud gust, the horse reared up, as far as he could being tied up, and Katherine just calmly stood there-totally unaffected by the whole incident, while I came slightly unhinged. Michelle calmly asked Katherine to back away from the horse and gave her a lesson on why she should have backed away when the horse started to rear up. She explained that horses are sensitive to loud noises, commotion and smells. She said that since the wind was so gusty, she would need to be sensitive to him and watch his body language very carefully. What? My kids are anything but sensitive to other's needs! They are four and seven! I mean, we do work with them about these things, but it is a work in progress. And we've just been talking about the needs of other people not those of gigantic horses.
Then, Michelle gently cozied up to Eldorado and whispered in his ear "Hey what was that? Your not afraid are you? Your a good boy" Huh? What's she saying to him? Is this horse psychology? Perhaps another day would be better for lessons?
At this point I'm thinking that horse lesson days are a great thing for papa to do with his girls and a great time for me to do laundry. I'm also thinking that ballet lessons sound really good right now. I also begin to search my purse for any Rescue Remedy that might be lurking around in there. Maybe I could slip a little RR into the horse's mouth without anyone noticing? (Just kidding)
So, after the girls groomed the horse and got a lesson on putting on his saddle and bridle, out to the riding area each of the girls went (separately) and took their turns walking around Eldorado, talking to him petting him and then finally mounting him for a ride. (Michelle, the trainer, did stay close to them that day because of the wind.) Good idea.
Meanwhile, as I'm trying to suppress visions of Eldorado bolting into the horizon with my four year old on his back, Zoe is barefoot and in the barn with Michelle's super sweet golden retrievers, rolling around in the horse dung and hay having a blast. What can I say, I was little preoccupied.
At one point while Thea was having her lesson, I look out to see the horse go from a gentle walk to a trot to a much faster trot. I hear Michelle saying "Whoa Eldorado" over and over. Thea, on the other hand was perfectly composed. Not an ounce of terror on her face. I was shocked and so was Michelle. She looked over at me and said "This is great! Most kids are freaking out and screaming at this point." All I could say was "Oh really, wow, that's...great" all the while thinking that I was about to freak out and start screaming myself. She calmly yelled to Thea "Are you enjoying your ride?" Thea shook her head no, which gave us a tickle and eased my tension a bit. Michelle reminded her how to slow her horse down and bring him to a stop. Thea did beautifully. At this point my arm pits are soaked and Katherine hadn't even had her turn yet. I cannot help but think that a torrential downpour would be great at this moment. I mean, we do need the rain.
Katherine went out next and after having watched Eldorado take a little trot with Thea, was suddenly looking and clearly feeling a little humbled. She didn't quite have the cowgirl spirit she did when we arrived. Me either. In fact, at this point I was needing a fortified cup of tea, or the Rescue Remedy-whichever I could get my hands on first.
Her ride went well and we all finally bid a sad farewell to Eldorado until next time.
As we drove away, all three girls were cackling excitedly in the back seat about "What a sweet horse he is, isn't he mommy?" and "Did you see him start running mom?" "When is our next lesson?" and of course Zoe is chiming in "I ride too mommy!!"