Friday, August 29, 2008

Grown Ups Mount Up Too

Originally I did not plan to teach kids to ride and I certainly never intended to teach riding to adults. It has been said that I do not teach kids to ride, I simply teach them to have the confidence to ride and I do not disagree. Perhaps more importantly, I teach kids to have the confidence to fall off and get back on. Motivating kids is one of the easiest tasks that I ever taken on. I knew that the same methods that I used to motivate my little riders could never work with adults.

The only thing that has saved me in this regard is that many adults do not need to be given motivation to ride as much as they need to simply be given an opportunity to ride. My first adult rider was barely an adult. At age 21, Rebbecca looked younger than some of my teen riders. She had ridden a bit as a kid, but more importantly, she had years of experience as a gymnast. She was fearless and resolute about learning natural horsemanship. At first she only rode on the regular schedule, but soon began to take a strong interest in training colts and wild horses. Within a few months this young newly wed was coming out to the horse lot before sunrise to break colts before I had to head into the office. As her understanding of horses increased, so did her riding skills. She now is an integral part of every thing we do and has been described as my right hand. I cannot disagree.

One Saturday afternoon I was working a colt in the round pen when a a lady about my age pulled up and asked about riding. Debbie was a soft spoken women who exuded kindness. She began riding with a group of intermediate riders who were all children and pretty quickly moved into the group of more experienced "Hard Riders" who take much more challenging rides on Sunday afternoons. She was working toward a goal that fascinated me. She was planning to take a fall vacation on a working ranch out west where she would really be doing some hard riding. She achieved that goal and continues to impress me with her soft touch with the horses.

Terry was a pleasant surprise. She also is about my age. Terry is a serious athlete and has remained in top physical condition. During her very first session she demonstrated as much skill in the saddle as I expect to find after a rider has been with us for a few months. Terry was my first adult rider to purchase one of my colts. Quien Es? was a bit of a nervous BLM/Chincoteague filly. My little riders and I got her started and Terry quickly put so many miles on the little mare that she became a reliable trail horse. After Terry had been riding for many months her young son became a rider and has done a great job of putting miles on Trade Wind. Her friend Theresa has recently began riding and, like Terry, she is picking it up as if she had been around horses all of her life.

Wendy had an unusual goal when she came to our horse lot. She did not want to ride but she wanted to understand horses. She and I worked with colts and wild horses for several months. Though she had made it clear that she would never want to mount up, within a short while she took her first ride on Nick, our incredibly athletic BLM stock donkey. She now serves on the county equine advisory board which works to promote our local horse industry, owns two donkeys, a haflinger, a Gypsy mare and foal, and a beautiful little mare that she got from me. She has taken to driving more than riding and horses are now a major part of her life.

My adult riders each love horses every bit as much as do my little riders. Nearly all of them have had some exposure to horses at some point in their lives and most had a childhood love of horses, whether or not they owned a horse. JK is unique in that regard. I doubt if she had ever given horses a second thought in all of her young life. JK comes from a different world than I have ever known. She is poised, elegant, and well, glamorous. Her sun glasses cost more than some of my horses did. She is an athlete and had the same wide eyed look that many of the little girls show when they approach my horses. She was drawn to horses from the first time she mounted up. She actually gets giddy on the days we are able to ride. She owns an amazing young Corolla named Sampson. She loves her horse the same way that a ten year old girl loves her horse. A few nights ago we rode even though we were experiencing our first rain in quite a while in this drought stricken area. She has about an hour and a half drive to get home from the horse lot. Still, after the ride she sat in the lot watching the foals eat as darkness fell. JK travels around the world, often spends weekends socializing in New York, yet finds supreme beauty in a dusty pasture filled with mustangs. How can anyone believe that there is not something magical about how horses give our lives meaning?

Several of my riders' parents have become either regular riders or participants on many rides. Liz, Ann, Bill,and Kaye regularly ride with their kids and have each become a vital part of what we do. Soon Lisa will join her children on the trails and I suspect that Judy will be doing the same. The adults in our program are more than just riders. Each understands that we are trying to do something important, both for the kids and for the horses. There is no way that I could hold this operation together without their help. It is a wonderful thing to know that I can count on each of them for assistance any time that it is needed. My coat and tie world is not a pretty world. There is nothing pretty about prosecuting violent criminals, drug dealers and child molesters. Without a doubt, it is a world of pain.
Fortunately, it is not my only world. My adult riders help make the horse lot the place of special refuge that it has become.

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