Sunday, December 14, 2008

Falling Off

Thursday night was the weekly lesson night for the boyz. It was good to see both of them were raring to go and ride since we've had head colds galore since the weather changed. As soon as I walked in the door from work, my husband and I helped them into their jodhpurs and mud boots, added another layer to their clothes and piled into the SUV for the drive out to the farm where they take their lessons with the Master. The weather was a whole lot of awful and I was expecting traffic to be a beast but surprisingly it took the usual 30 or so minutes and we were there.

When we arrived, my husband gathered the big duffle bag with all their gear, helmets, half chaps, gloves and stirrups (yes, my kids each have their own set of safety stirrups to swap onto the schoolie saddles for their lesson to save time fiddling with adjusting the leathers to just the right length each week.)I took both boys to the office to pay for the lessons and find out who they were riding. In the office, they were each handed a homemade chocolate chip cookie and told which ponies they would ride.

Nice. Nobody ever offered me cookies. It's good to be a little kid.

The Master was heading down the aisle of the barn as we were heading out to the indoor arena. He told me my husband was waiting for the kids to get them into the rest of their gear, and I had to fetch the ponies. Yes, knowledge of horses is a double edged sword. I am now the groom to the young princes. There was a girl grooming a horse in the aisle. The Master said, "You remember J, don't you?" it was a girl I've known for a long time who rides with the Master. "Sure", I said,"How are you, J"? She answered, "Great, wow, I can't believe how BIG your boys are! They are so cute. And they take lessons with the Master?"

And I looked at my kiddies. Munching on cookies and smiling at the Master. The Master caught me looking. He said to the boys, "And you NEVER give me a hard time, right?" Of course, they shook their heads "No" in unison. Then he said to them, "and what do we say to students who don't listen to me?" I watched their reaction... a slight pause... then Devon piped up, "We tell them, HEY, you don't mess with our trainer Master!"

We all cracked up! The Master was tickled. He high-fived Devon and said, "I LOVE these kids". And off they went with him to get dressed. And off I went to saddle ponies.

When they were mounted and their lessons began. Each boy takes a lunge-line lesson at the same time, one with the Master, the other with another trainer there, Miss L. Then each week they switch so they both get to ride with the Master. The idea is to eventually have them both off the lunge-line and able to take a semi-private lesson together. By now, the rain really started to pour. The arena is one of those dome-roofed structures that are a kind of tyvek sheeting stretched across a metal armature. When the weather is rainy and windy, the rain water blows across the arena roof and makes a whishing "zipper" sound. It also makes a rattly noise from the wind. The ponies should be used to it but you could tell they weren't happy. In fact, one time our lessons were cancelled because the horses were just too spooky in the indoor from the wind sounds.

The lessons were proceeding smoothly, the kids are really good with posting now, and they were trotting on the lunge line very nicely. The Master had Harrison trotting around when suddenly his pony tensed up, bucked and sent Harrison to the ground. It wasn't a scary fall, the child landed in the soft dirt on his bottom but the pony got scared when he lost his rider and jumped away from the Master who was only focused on getting to Harrison. And as he jumped back, suddenly there were pony hooves dancing around my little boy.

The pony must have felt or known his rider was underfoot, he tucked both hind legs up in a big hop and scooted forward. My husband and I were about to rush out there when the Master looked at us and hollered to stop and wait.

He talked quietly to Harrison, then the child got up, brushed himself off and he and the Master started slowly walking in a circle, with the pony trailing behind. They were quietly talking. I figured this was a good time to walk out and take inventory.

I knew Harrison was okay, I’ve seen enough falls to know when it’s bad. I also know why we were told to hold back from coming over to him. Sometimes parental concern can back fire and the child gets more upset because of the parents' reaction. But I wanted to see where his emotions were at. As I approached, they both looked at me, Harrison’s dirty face broke into a small smile and I returned it with, “Congratulations. You are a real horseman today.” The Master whispered, “He’s ok, now I need to put him back on”.

I nodded and walked back to my husband. The Master boosted my son back on the pony, his brother and Miss L stopped their lesson to applaud and dad and I gave a big thumbs up.

By the time they rode over at the end of the lesson, the Master had convinced Harrison that he had tried to jump a huge oxer in the center of the ring and next time he’d make it to the other side! My son was proud of himself, He told us in the car afterward that when you fall down, you have to get up. It’s like when he falls off his bicycle. He said quitting is failing and he was not a failure.

I agree with the Master, I love these kids, too.


jme said...

glad all ended well :-) it's got to happen sooner or later, and sometimes sooner is better than later, just so you can get it over with and hopefully discover it's not so bad...

i can't remember my first fall, but i remember countless falls since - in a good way ;-) most of my good riding stories are about the new and ridiculous methods i've discovered for falling off a horse (if only points were awarded for originality!) i'm not sure at what point you go from being horrified/embarrassed to happily telling everyone about the time you stupidly show-sheened a horse's mane and then he refused a fence (ok, a cross-rail)... and somehow you ended up body-surfing down the neck and sitting on the other side of the jump with the entire bridle in your lap...

so, see? you can tell him it only gets better from here ;-)

Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm glad the Master handled it right and he was not afraid to get back on. With a young child and a first fall it could probably gone either way. Glad your son is okay.

OnTheBit said...

awwww...what a cute story. Now your other little youngster just needs to buy a piece of real estate and they will be on their way to the Olympics. That story made me smile today, and let me tell you I needed a smile so thank you.

Promise said...

I remember my first fall. I was riding a little black pony named Velvet in a lesson. My grandmother was riding her horse Amber around the property to cool her out, and walked by the back door of the arena. Even though she called out "Door" before she got there, to warn us, Velvet spooked when Amber appeared in the doorway. She zigged, I zagged, held on by a stirrup and 1 hand on the reins, and then lost my balance and fell off. I got right back on and was no worse for the wear. My grandmother still feels guilty about it. I'd been taking lessons for about a year...I was 8 years old, but had been on and around horses since I was 2.

Hmm...I haven't reminded her of that in a while, maybe tonight while we're Christmas shopping. :)

Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

Sounds like your little one handled that very well! I think the first time I fell off, a pony took me under a low branch:)

R J said...

It so good to see, young kids talk so confidently. I remember, on the first day of attending a horse riding lesson at Woodland Horse Center, Maryland, I fell for the very first time. Though, the instructors were kind enough, to make me stand again but it took them two hours to convince me, to get back on the horse. From then on, I visit the place every summer holidays. Check their website Woodland Horse Center, Maryland to know more about the upcoming camps and activities.