It took me about one month to realize there is nothing, and I mean nothing, easy about horseback riding. My daughter had been begging for riding lessons for two years before I relented. In my mind riding was a fun sport that gave people a good excuse to be around horses at best; an expensive, elitist hobby at worst. I put off letting her have lessons for years thinking it was just a phase that lots of little girls went through. When I finally relented, I had a real eye-opening experience.
Things I have learned about riding:
- Horses are not big dogs. Okay, that should be obvious, but I had only been around horses a handful of times in my life. I was more than a little afraid of them and rightly so, they can kick, bite and step on your feet. But the gentle, patient lesson horses at CRA Equestrian won me over quickly.
- Riding gear is sports equipment. Yes, it is expensive, but so are leotards and dance costumes, football cleats and golf clubs, bikes and running gear. When I look at it this way, and the fact that I don’t have buy gear often, it helps justify the cost.
- Riding is a workout. I never realized that riders aren’t holding on with their hands. Those reigns are used for steering only. At the other end of the reigns is a bit in the horse’s mouth that the rider needs to be gentle with. There is no emergency handle. You keep your balance, or you fall off! Everything is in the legs and core body. You know that up-and-down posting trot that they make look so easy? It’s like doing squats. No wonder riders have awesome legs!
- It takes a lot of focus. There is so much to remember when on a horse. There are things they have to remember about their form: Look straight ahead! check your diagonal! Heels down! Thumbs up! Shoulders Back! There are things they have to remember about the horse: Keep the horse centered to the jump! Ride out straight to the rail! Pick up the correct lead in cantering! And there are things you need to remember about tacking the horse: Picking hooves and curry combs. How to wash the horse down on warm days and how to put its blanket on on cool ones. The bridle, the girth, the martingale!
- It is expensive, but there are ways to manage this. For now, my child rides the lesson horses once a week. We also enter the in-house shows that are small and affordable. If she continues in this sport, we will cross the other more expensive bridges later such as away shows and leasing a horse. There are students that work at the barn to help with expenses once they are old enough. I’ve told my daughter that we will talk about increasing our commitment when she can work.
What I have left to learn about riding can fill a library full of books! Even though I was reluctant to try this, I am glad we did. Just when I start to think that I have done so much in life, this homeschooling and parenting journey opens my eyes to new and wonderful things.