Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Earning Their Spurs

Ever since the kids were born David and I have dreamed of the day when the kids would be old enough to trail ride with us. I thought that it would happen much sooner than this, but I am an overprotective Momma and have been very careful about them learning to ride. First of all, we haven't really had that right horse for them to learn on. It takes a really special horse for me to trust my babies on their back. The kids have been riding with us in the saddle with them for years, and even by themselves being led around with a lead rope. But until this past summer we never had that right horse that I felt was trustworthy enough to just turn them loose on.

This summer we were blessed to find not just one, but two wonderful and safe horses for the kids. One was just a horse we took a chance on, a 23 year old mare David drove all the way to Summerville to pick up. She was so underweight I was amazed she was even able to stand up on her own. The people we got her from assured us she was "kid broke", but judging by the shape she was in we had serious doubts. Kelsie decided to name her Krystal, and Dustin immediately fell in love with her. It was 4 months before she had gained enough weight for us to even think about climbing on her back. After the first ride I knew she was going to work out great, and she just kept getting better.

Our second blessing was a horse that we have known since before Kelsie was born. He has been around and in our lives off and on for at least 11 years, but we have never owned him. He is a son of my big red roan mare Lucy, who died almost 4 years ago. Our good friend Gerry Don has owned him for the last 9 years or so. He has been trained in cutting and actually won a little bit of money in the show ring at one time. Gerry Don did alot of Team Penning on him, and he is a really good broke horse. I have always loved riding him, even all those years ago before he had any fancy training. He is just a joy to ride and be around. His name is Little Boy, although there is nothing little about him. He is a wonderful addition to our little horse family, and Kelsie loves him to death. It is so cute to see that petite little girl riding that big ole' horse. And of course she loves to rub it in that her horse is "the biggest and the prettiest".

Sometime last summer the kids started riding their horses on their own. At first they rode in the barn, then we moved them out to the pasture but left the halter and lead rope on their horses and ponied them around behind us on our horse. After a few times they had enough confidence to take off the lead rope and ride on their own, with us riding along side them of course. Each time they rode I could see improvement in their abilities and their confidence, especially Dustin. He may have a little too much confidence....I'm afraid that may work against him one day, but for now it is helping him. Kelsie had a couple of incidents that shook her up a bit, but she learned from her mistakes and was able to move past them. She has turned into a really good little rider.

So with the sunshine and warm weather on Saturday we decided it was time to let them have their first real trail ride. There is something about riding within the fenced in areas of home that makes the experience a little bit safer. It's just like riding in a corral, only bigger. The horse is still in a confined area, and they are close to all their friends and the places they are most familiar with. You can't "earn your spurs" until you have ridden your horse in the great outdoors, without any fences to rely on. When the kids figured out we were going out of the pasture they were so excited! We left the pasture with David in the lead, followed by Kelsie, then Dustin and I was bringing up the rear. Right away we hit the lot across the road from us which hasn't seen a bushhog in years. We were in thick grass and those big canes with the feathery stuff on top of them were up over our heads. The further back we went the wetter the ground was getting until we wound up about ankle deep in what would have been soupy mud if it hadn't been for the thick layer of swamp grass under our feet. The horses were pushing through the foliage and being slapped under the belly and in the face time after time with one thing or another. I yelled up to David several times to get back up on the road because I was afraid the kids would be nervous about riding through such rough terrain for the first time. But they were fine, in fact they were having a blast. Even Wyatt who was riding in the saddle with David up at the front of our little caravan. We came out on the road and after riding the road a little ways we turned off onto the trail we used during our nature walk the other day.

The trail was really nice on horseback, we followed it all the way back and came across several spots where deer had bedded down. We came upon a deer plot the owner of the land had fixed up and not too far from that we found his deer stand. The picture below was taken while we were standing in the deer plot by the creek.

We rode for over an hour, and every one of the horses were sweating and showing how out of shape they are by the time we got back home. Every one of them except Little Boy. We all had a good laugh that he was the only one who looked like he hadn't been ridden, Kelsie doesn't weigh enough to give him any kind of a work out.

I can't remember a time that I have had more fun. I knew it was going to be great when the kids were finally able to ride with us, but I had no idea just how great. I was really happy that I was the one in the back, I had a great view of everything going on in front of me. I got to see exactly how both of them handled their horses through each obstacle we came to. I watched the looks on their faces when something excited them. I was able to see how comfortable they were and how relaxed they seemed to be as we were riding, that made me so proud of them! It was like they had been doing it their whole lives. If they had half as much fun as I had it was a good day for all of us!

So Kelsie and Dustin are now official equestrians. I have to say that they have earned their spurs, and very soon they will be rewarded with a trip to trail ride at Big Hill Pond to celebrate.

I must say though, there is one down side to Saturday's ride. Both kids now have full blown horse fever and will not stop asking me if we can go ride horses. This awful rainy weather is not cooperating with me and it is making things even worse. Oh well, the rain can't last forever, at least it's not snow....