I don’t even remember the first time I was on a horse. I do have a memory of the first time I thought I was going to fall off a horse though! I was about 4 and riding Chubby with just a blanket on his back and someone was leading me around. Chubby took one of those grand shakes that horses do and I thought I was going to shake right off. I think the only thing that stopped me was the fact that my little legs were spread out in a Thelwell like fashion and that Chubby had what had to have been the highest withers and backbone ever grown on a horse.
My whole life I have wanted to go riding on the beach. Growing up in Alberta I didn’t see how it was going to happen unless I was somewhere on an exotic vacation (which never seemed to happen). So, it remained quietly on my bucket list waiting to be filled.
Thursday we were on the bike trip from H-E-double hockey sticks when we passed what looked to be empty corrals on the sand. Naturally we had to stop and see what that was about. It was, in fact, about Virginia Beach Horseback Riding and they were going to be giving rides Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So, Friday afternoon the kids and I headed over and booked our 5pm ride – the earliest ride we could get. It was kind of windy and there was rain in the forecast but we booked anyway and crossed fingers and hoped for the best.
5 pm finally came around and we were assigned our horses and ready to go. The guy doing the payment asked us several times if we were sure we wanted the hour long ride instead of the half hour one that everyone else was doing. There were black clouds coming and he said he was pretty sure we would be coming back in the rain. The kids were adamant they wanted to do the hour-long one, and I have spent more hours than I want to think about shivering on the back of a horse so we were good to go.
Jacob’s horse had FOMO (fear of missing out0 and took off to be with the other riders, but Jenna’s horse seemed to be in need of a nap and would not go above a snail’s pace for anything. I stayed back with Jenna and the trail leader was ahead with the others. I hadn’t mentioned I knew how to ride (I have found that if I say that I’m experienced they give me the greenest, meanest horse they have and I just wanted to enjoy my ride). but I guess he figured we were ok behind by ourselves.
I have always said that my most valuable life lessons I have learned with my horses. This time was no different. I have been working on surrendering control. Much as I like to think I don’t have control issues (those of you who know me can just be quiet here) it turns out I actually have waaaaay more than I ever thought I did. To top that off apparently I’m also much, much more of a helicopter parent than I like to admit. I actually think Jacob rode ahead because I was so busy yipping at him about how to keep his horse looking ahead that he got tired of it.
The great thing about riding a horse is you can’t really control anything. You can kid yourself that you’re in control of the horse, but really the horse just decides whether or not to do what you’re asking. You also can’t just (usually) allow them to completely take over the journey, so somewhere in between you have to figure out a way for you two to meet some sort of balance.
Well, Jenna’s horse didn’t want to be doing this ride at all. We were heading into the wind, there were only the two of us left and good old King decided he’d just had enough. At first he just stopped. Dead. In his tracks.
I stopped too and then was stuck with a difficult decision as to what to do next. Do I keep my horse walking hoping that King would decide to catch up? That didn’t seem very likely as King only really seemed to want to head back home. I figured if I turned around to head back for her King would also take that as a sign that the ride was over and he’d find his fast walking feet and stay ahead of me. This was when I had to let go. Let go of my desire to control and to helicopter Jenna. She had to figure this out herself. I could tell her what to do (kick, turn his head forward), but she had to do it herself. She sat there kicking and crying (brought back memories I tell you) and I just had to sit there. Then Barry, the man leading the ride, saw what was going on and cantered back, grabbed King’s halter which was under his bridle and force-marched him ahead.
Problem solved and I could go back to my serene ride.
Jenna rode up to me a little later and said “Mommy, I’m so glad I didn’t give up earlier. I wanted to and I was crying and crying. But I kept at it and that man helped me move my horse and now I’m having so much fun.” Which pretty much sums up my obsession with horses. They are the most frustrating creatures ever at times. But a lot of the time that’s because I’m working on my own agenda instead of working with the horse (not always, sometimes you just get an ornery little bugger). But, when things are good it’s the most soul freeing experience I’ve been able to find.
So, this has been checked off the bucket list, but it’s an experience I hope to share many more times with my kiddos.