For years, I’ve wanted my children to have horses in their lives. Until this month, with the exception of a few summer trail rides, regular horseback riding lessons remained a unpractical and unfeasible horsey mother’s dream. The nearest riding stables were a 30 minute drive away and our schedule was just too packed. But finally, with the end of soccer season and winter looming, I found a free day and a group lesson with openings. Introducing my girls to the world of horses became a reality.
Every Wednesday, as soon as school is over, we head west to the stables. There, in the hay and the dirt, serious magic is happening.
I thought the learning would take place in the arena, where the lessons take place. Coaxing a big animal into a trot and getting him to stop. Finding the confidence to tell it to go right or left. Discovering that you have the power to direct a giant is amazing for a child who can’t dictate what’s for dinner or when to go to bed. But while they’re both standing taller and taller in the saddle in the arena, the greatest reward so far has been after the lesson.
Each girl is responsible for getting her horse ready for the night. First they remove the saddle and blanket, then they brush their horses down. And just before covering them up with winter warming blankets, they clean their hooves. Theoretically. To clean their hooves, they have to convince the horses to lift each of their four giant legs. And herein lies the magic.
Last night, I waited for forty minutes while Juju and Bella cleaned eight horse hooves. Baby Sophie and I sat nestled in a giant pile of hay bales, with two bossy barn cats claiming our laps. Even Jesus in his manger couldn’t have been cozier. The girls struggled and agonized over each hoof. Both got stuck after two, then after three, and came close to tears. When that last hoof was clean, the look of triumph on their faces was priceless.
Next week, we do it all over again. I can’t wait to see that girl power continue to grow in the stables.
Local friends, in case you’re curious where all this magic is happening, it’s at Double J Riding Club. I’m loving the autonomy they give the kids, giving girl power and the love affair between girls and their horses plenty of room to bloom.