The simple joy of riding


A curious thing has happened.  Lauren has been riding now for upwards of 13 years.  For the last nine years she has ridden four or more times a week, baring illness, injury or vacation.  She has had big goals (Zone Finals) and small goals (just getting a horse exercised) but through it all she has ridden as many of you do, day in and day out.

It is difficult to remember how many horses and ponies she has ridden.  And the reason for her riding, what initially drew her to riding has been somewhat lost in work to meet the next goal.  Which is why this is even more a surprise.

What did I hear when I got home from work yesterday?  Lauren was bubbling over about riding Mimi.  Yes, Mimi, the little grey Welsh pony that  we took from Caroline to help her out, not because of any great desire to own a pony.  The pony that I did not understand (because I wasn’t paying attention) came to me without being broke to ride and with a big pony attitude. 

Mimi came home from trainer Sarah this weekend.  Sick and exhausted, Lauren and I watched Sarah work the pony before we loaded her for home, and we were happy with the way the pony was working.  Sarah had a horrible day on Saturday with the sudden, unexpected loss of good horse, and was pretty wiped out herself.  We were glad Mimi was coming home but there was not the air of expectation or excitement that surrounded the homecomings of Feather and Bruno.  We were EXCITED about them!  Mimi was just going to be another horse to work until we sold her.

Lauren rode Mimi on Sunday and I caught some smiles on her face as she worked the small pony through her paces.  But I didn’t catch anything brewing emotionally between them.

But last night, Lauren was like the tiny child who once rode her big paint gelding over the cross-country course in Wickham Park, Florida in a western saddle, a pair of pink Osh Kosh overalls, a helmet and little else. She was entranced with the act of riding, with the chance of putting a horse (or pony) through its paces.  Lauren recited all the things she and Mimi had done together.  She talked of serpentines, trotting patterns, canter departures and other tasks Sarah had just taught the pony.  But Lauren’s biggest excitement came from something Sarah taught the pony that will never be asked for in an English flat class.  Sarah, being a western riding trainer, wants to know that her horse (or pony) not only will walk,trot and canter (or in western words, walk, jog, lope) but also that the horse has a “good stop” on it. And as a part of training the horse to stop, when Sarah asks for the “whoa” and it is completed, she will ask the horse to back a few steps. 

Lauren was just having the best time cantering the pony around and saying “whoa”, having Mimi stop on a dime and back up.  In these simple exercises, Lauren had renewed the love of the basics of riding.  As we work Mimi toward the show ring, in this case the English show ring, that stop on a dime will need to be a little more of a delicate, downward transition from one gait to another.  There will be plenty of time for that work in the future. 

In the meantime,  what a joy it is to see my daughter excited about riding, not about showing, or winning, just the simple joy of riding.

Cantering down the line so Lauren can say “whoa” and have the pony slide to a stop. How fun!