Once again, my children continue to amaze me and show what incredible human beings they are: For the past three years or so my daughter has been taking horse riding lessons, first at a stable that taught her how to ride a horse and of late at a different facility that is teaching her how to be an equestrian. I realise that pretty much all young girls have an obsession with horses, but she took up riding after a friend held a birthday party at a stable, and she learned that her best friend was taking lessons. I know when a hill is not worth dying on, and anyway, I wasn’t paying for it. Additionally, I’ve always encouraged the kids to follow their passions, and if she loves riding, then who am I to stop her?
Her current lesson plan involves both tacking and untacking her ride. Yes, you heard me. She spends fully half an hour before and after her lesson tending the horse. She is incapable of keeping her room even vaguely tidy, but give her a curry comb and a brush and there is no stopping her. She is as passionate about caring for the horse as she is about riding it, and it’s gratifying to see this small child taking care of a horse that is more than twice her height and several times her weight.
Last week she took part in her first riding competition, so new readers start here. I learned about the event by chance, when I told her that both my sweetie and I would be at her upcoming football game. We were mightily relived to learn that the competition was on the island as her football game entailed a drive of nearly 45 minutes for a 9 am kick off.
We arrived in what turned out to be plenty of time and had the opportunity to see the earlier skill classes – four year olds on horseback are an absurd sight, but even these tots showed quite a level of skill. I did enjoy the showjumping, and it was very easy to spot the expert riders as they turned on a sixpence and sped at the fences. I managed to find my daughter, although at first I didn’t recognise her due to the fact that she was wearing all new riding gear: namely a dark blue riding jacket and tan Jodhpurs. I have to admit that she looked every inch the accomplished equestrian and very smart to boot.
Eventually her class took to the ring for two rounds of walk/trot, which is exactly what it sounds like. The class were put through their paces as the judges looked on. Of course I’m biased, but she looked very professional, not looking around at the crowd, and staying focused. Imagine my delight when she placed third in the first round, and my even greater joy when she placed second in the second round! Two top three places in her first appearance in the ring. As you can imagine, I was grinning like an idiot, as indeed was my sweetie.
The best was yet to come, though little did we know it. After a short break came two Hunter/pole rounds, which is basically show jumping with poles on the ground instead of fences, as the competitors are not at a high enough skill level to tackle jumps. During her first attempt even I could tell that she nailed it, the horse never breaking stride as it crossed the poles. I said as much and it helped that we had seen her do the same exercise during one of her classes during the summer. I nearly exploded with joy when she was announced as having taken first place. The second round followed a more complex course and the day was made even more memorable when she placed second in the round. Imagine that: four top level rosettes in her first ever competition. Naturally, I was overjoyed, and made sure she knew just how proud I was of her. Now to be clear, had she finished last in all four rounds I would have been proud of her, but seeing the grin on her face made it all the more special. She is her own worst critic and after the first Hunter/pole round she was certain that she hadn’t done very well although it was very apparent that she was doing her best and displaying exceptional skill.
It’s especially telling that she did so well among a field that included many lifelong riders. There is a big horsey set here and many people own horses and equestrian properties and take owning a horse to be a natural part of life. For someone most certainly not from that background she did spectacularly well and I for one can’t wait for her next competition.