Theoretically, one of our main activities that we had planned was horseback riding lessons. In practice, it only took up an hour or two per day, but it was fun, and we all learned quite a bit.
Each lesson started with about half an hour of learning to take care of the horses, a process that felt a lot like fine woodworking. You start off by rubbing the horse down with a hard rubber
sanding block er, curry brush, going over their fur in circles. (It's really quite surprising home much hair and dirt comes off when you do this!) Then, you follow up with a stiff scrub brush, and finally a soft one. Mentally, I was thinking sandpaper grits, and figured a nice coat of lacquer was next...
With the exception of Risanna, everyone in the family got in some riding time. Aiden was a bit young to really reach the stirrups or control the horse, but we gave him a little ride around the ring a few times before he headed home with Grandma Renaud for a snack and a nap.
Fiona, by contrast, was roughly the same age that our trainers, Lindsay and Julia, started riding, and they taught her accordingly.
While Fiona was off on Nellie (whoa, Nellie!) I was at the other end with a feisty horse named Bubbles. It took some getting used to, but I apparently caught on very quickly. I was puzzled by their amazement; all I can figure all the motorcycling I've done helped somehow. Mostly, I followed the a few simple principles of driving any vehicle:
- Trust the vehicle.
- Look where you want to go.
- Give subtle, but firm inputs.
- When in doubt, accelerate.
Apparently, this works on horses as much as it does on their mechanical brethren — and works fairly well in the rest of life, as well.
When Fiona's and my time was up, Paul and Deborah came out to have a turn. Paul in particular made a point of listening to all the instruction I was given, and trying to do those things from the beginning.
Later in the week, we also went on a trail ride, at a different stable, and discovered how much of a difference the horse makes. Previously, trail rides were the only kind of riding I'd done. I got a semi-retired Belgian draft horse ("Sandy") that resolutely knew the way, and walked in it. After scarcely a week, I missed the control that I'd learned with the other horses — a lot of what I'd learned apparently applied to Bubbles, who responded right away to subtle cues... not this horse! One trains the horse as much as the rider, I suppose...
Anyway, we had fun. it wasn't cheap, but we all felt like we accomplished something!