Last Thursday night was MRF's annual riding recital; an opportunity for all of my students to demonstrate their hard earned skills for friends and family. The group was small this year showcasing only 9 riders. As I scan the many pictures that were taken to record the event I am taken by the riders' cumulative years of experience and the range of years that they represent.
At the lower end of the age spectrum is 8 year old Natalie who has been riding since Kindergarten. She begins the season early in the spring and rides right up until the first snow arrives late in the fall. Natalie enjoys barn chores almost as much as riding. She also makes time to visit with the chickens on her lesson day at the barn.
Courtney is the oldest student in the group. A college Junior, Courtney began riding with her sister Lauren the first summer that we moved to Moose River Farm. That was nine years ago! They were both in elementary school and never missed a lesson during the good weather season. Courtney now rides on Hobart's Intercollegiate Riding Team. Lately, I've noticed significant development in Courtney's riding. Her polished position rides with 'feel' rather than mechanics. It is the one facet of the riding lesson that I can't teach. She had to get there all on her own through hard work and lots of hours spent in the saddle. The results make me very proud.
Jessica and Lauren, two college students have also been riding at MRF for a significant number of years. Lauren's long, lean physique on the back of a horse creates the desired image that we all strive for. However, it is her cerebral command of the horse that impresses me the most. Lauren is a thinking rider who mentally selects the perfect combination of aides prior to employing them on the horse. Jessica is a natural athlete who can go months without riding and return to the saddle finding all of the correct buttons to push. She instinctively rides each horse based on his appropriate needs.
In the middle is a group of young ladies who have been riding long enough to establish strong basics that enable them to command most of my upper level horses. Alexis and Haley are becoming aware of the importance of riding between their inside leg and outside rein, a correction that reestablishes everything from the horse's focus to his balance. Another rider in this group named Alex has improved her skills immensely in the three years that she has been riding. Because Alex rides just about every day in the summer, she looks and rides like somebody who has been riding a lot longer. Finally, Trinity and Jenna, two young ladies about to enter middle school also ride with ease established by their natural athletic abilities and strong command of the basics. Jenna, an avid hockey player has strength and timing on her side. Trinity rides with a relaxed nature; the result of endless sessions without stirrups.
This year's riding recital made me acutely aware of what binds us together at MRF. We are all girls who love horses, who are connected to horses and who strive to ride our best in a way that keeps the horses happy. Respect, discipline, assertiveness, and compassion infuse our relationships with the horses as well as with each other. We all are living very different lives and are at various destinations along our live's journeys. However, at the barn...we are all the same.
Photos by Michele deCamp
|Courtney can ride Easau with calm, grace and...|
|Jessica and Spirit demonstrate harmony between horse and rider.|
|Jessica and Spirit|
|Lauren encourages and challenges Joshua at the same time.|
|She raises his confidence and her own with the results.|
|Trinity keeps Tango focused on her requests...|
|... Otherwise, he makes his own decisions.|
|Haley reminds Lowtchee to keep going forward.|
|Haley also demonstrates riding without stirrups to establish balance.|
|Alex and Makia make it look easy.|
|Their's is a give and take relationship based on respect.|
|Alexis is another rider who keeps Tango's attention.|
|The hand-gallop is one of Alexis's favorite gaits.|
|Tago and Jenna demonstrate the two-point position.|
|Using the leg and the rein Jenna turns Tango away from the fence.|
|Natalie and Sandi demonstrate the steady ride that so many romanticize about...|
|...Truth is, it takes lots of hard work...|
|What we all have in common is that at our core we are simply girls and horses.|