We are always looking for routine activities to get involved in, but recently the options have been less than stellar for the girls and I. They are both lukewarm on getting back into soccer and Gabriella changes her mind daily on if she would prefer karate or gymnastics; I think Elaina would excel in volleyball or basketball, but she just has no desire to play either. So obviously Horseback Riding was the next logical step…
Last time we were at the Buffalo Corral Riding Stables on Fort Huachuca, I noticed that children had to be at least seven years to go on trail rides; Sunset Trail Rides on Fort Huachuca are on the recommended post bucket list, so it is definitely something that I wanted to do as well. Since Elaina was seven going on eight, it seemed like an activity that she would like to do prior to our upcoming Permanent Change of Station (PCS) in June (that post will be up this weekend, I swear). Elaina loved the idea, but said she wanted to do horseback riding lessons first so that she felt comfortable on a horse during the trail ride. Smart kid.
So I talked with the instructor and got her signed up for lessons. A couple weeks later, Elaina started her first lesson. We brought apples to feed her new horse, a male horse whose name starts with an “R,” but for the life of me I cannot remember. After introductions and feeding him, Elaina started her “chores.”
Unbeknownst to Elaina, Gabriella, and I, there is a significant amount of preparation to be done prior to saddling a horse; we had been spoiled with pre-saddled horses for Kids Lead Arounds. And the instructor certainly put Elaina to work, starting with lugging out her bucket of cleaning supplies.
Elaina started by brushing him on his back, sides, and underbelly. While Elaina eventually enjoyed this after realizing its purpose, it started off like a chore. She also learned how the horse was feeling based on the placement of his ears.
Afterwards, Elaina cleaned the horse’s hooves, which was a significant learning experience for all of us (like that the center of the hoof is called the frog). Then Elaina put insect repellant on him, being particularly careful with his face, to limit the flies bothering him during the lesson. After he was fully prepped, Elaina aided her instructor in saddling him.
After leading him down to the training corral, Elaina learned basic commands while getting familiar with her new friend. This frustrated Elaina a little bit, because she thought she would immediately jump on her horse and start going. Maybe it was my job to provide a little bit of expectation management for her first lesson or maybe she has been watching too much Spirit Riding Free, thinking that she was just going to hop on without a saddle and be off.
Once she mounted the horse though, it was a whole different story. Elaina was happy and seemed to know exactly what she was doing.
Listening to her instructor, Elaina started out very slowly, making sure that she and her horse were both comfortable with each other. She took him around the arena multiple times, changing directions several times to practice.
Eventually though, Elaina picked up the pace to a brisk walk. No galloping yet, but she would probably be there soon enough. She did even better during her second lesson two weeks later, directing her horse to exactly where she wanted him to go, including stopping him on command. Her instructor said she was a natural and I was very impressed by how well she did.
Unfortunately, after her second lesson, Elaina was not really feeling it anymore. She felt like too much time passed between lessons, which was causing her to forget what she had learned, and that she was spending too much of the lesson off the horse (sorry, Elaina, but you have to clean and prep the horse before saddling him). Regardless of how it turned out, she had a great time while she was riding and knows she can go back whenever she wants. Until Gabriella is old enough for lessons next year or Elaina wants to try her hand at it again, we will just keep doing Kids Lead Arounds to scratch their riding itch. At least until Elaina and I get our Sunset Trail Ride in before we depart Fort Huachuca.
Thanks for checking in on us.