My Little Pony

Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011

My husband gave me horseback riding lessons for my birthday a few years ago, and I couldn’t wait until the first one. I‘d bring a pocket full of apples to the stable. The horse I rode would look up at me with those adoring deep blue long lashed eyes, and I’d reach out to pet that gleaming lavender coat with the butterfly tattoo on it’s butt—knowing that I had found a devoted friend for life who would follow me anywhere .
What no one mentioned was the pain… or the punching.

I was apprehensive about that first lesson. How ridiculous would I look to all the 12 year old girls in their smart little riding outfits (I had on jeans and sneakers, the helmet the stable provided was too big, and hanging past my eyebrows-- someone actually said to me while I was riding ‘Use the Force, Luke’), not to mention the 20 something year difference in ages)? But my instructor, Holly, was really great. I was totally relaxed & confident until she mentioned the bus dropping her off at the stable after school and I realized she didn’t mean college.

Learning to ride a horse is a lot like learning to drive a standard shift car-except the horse can sense weakness and put itself into any gear it wants to whether your foot is on the clutch or not. The hardest part is getting the darn things started. You don’t just jump on and go. There’s a lot of kicking and swearing. Holly handed me a crop. I didn’t want to take it. Why would I need to kick Chief when he just had to understand how much I loved him and then he would take me wherever I wanted? Next week, when I road Charmer, I took that crop without hesitation.

That second lesson on Charmer was better. I think that after Holly laid back and punched him when he started head butting her, he was in more of a mind to pay attention. I got him to walk and trot and run away with me. Ok, he ran on his own, but I didn’t fall off. I pulled back and sideways on the reins and said, ‘Whoa’. Holly said I handled it very well. I didn’t tell her that I was falling off and just happened to be holding onto the reins and the ‘Whoa-Aaaa’ usage as a horse term was pure coincidence. It's a saying I stole from my 3 year old niece who uses it when she’s gotten too dizzy and is going to fall down.

Even so, I felt like I had accomplished something and couldn’t wait until the next lesson. Imagine my surprise when after an hour on Charmer, I found the body parts I normally use only for sitting, weren’t even good for that. During the first lesson Holly had said something about doing stretching exercises and warming up, but I was too busy kicking furiously and trying to make my ‘giddyup’ clicking noises sound like I meant business to pay attention. Besides, I wasn’t really straining anything sitting there and kicking. The pain didn’t go away until a bottle of ‘Aleve’ and 5 days later.

The next Saturday I was back on Charmer, with a pair of $15 boots, a better fitting helmet and having done a bunch of stretching exercises. I didn’t have to use the crop as much as I had before and I learned to canter. Best of all, when the 12 year old girls smiled and said ‘hello’, I could smile back. I realize we have more in common that I thought. We’ve all been handed a lot of hooey about ‘pretty ponies’ by a toy company and are discovering what horses are really about. It is too bad about the butterfly tattoos on their rear ends, though. It would give us a place to aim for when we use the crop.





1 comment:

Molly said...

Great story! It had me laughing. I've never ridden before either, but would love to try. Every girl's dream right :)
Great treasury too!

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