Its been more than four weeks since I lasted posted an entry on my blog. With publication of the book, Finding My Way to Moose River Farm and the start of a brand new school year, my days have only gotten shorter. I miss writing...a lot. I miss pouring my visions into thoughtful words, then revising them so that the timing, message and content come together like the catchy lyrics of a song. Winter is coming and for once I look forward to the cold weather giving me an excuse to stay indoors and assemble pages of words.
Recently, I made a revelation about teaching. Once again it was brought to my attention, loud and clear, by animals with whom I share my life; one horse in particular. As dear Sandi, our perfect 28 year old school horse veteran transitions into full retirement, it has been necessary to move other horses into the "beginner rider" ranks. This is a difficult niche to fill. The perfect beginner horse must be, above all, safe. Next, he must be able to read jaunty, incomplete messages sent from a rider who is struggling to coordinate her body with a horse's movement. The beginner horse must not take these inappropriate cues personally. He must forgive weighty kicks and unintentional yanks on the reins without displaying irritation. It is a lot to ask of our equine partners, but hard to avoid when well meaning individuals begin the "learning to ride" process. Some horses, like Sandi, accept the challenge with extreme patience while maintaining a strong sense of dignity. Others make it perfectly clear that they will not. And then there are horses like Tango!
At just under 15 hands, this compact paint gelding is not intimidating for novice riders to climb aboard. But once in the saddle Tango begins to sharply monitor where the weaknesses in the rider's education lie. If the reins are not long enough, he refuses to go forward. If they are too long he will drop his head to the ground for a nibble of grass that grows on the perimeter of the ring. If the rider's leg is weak, Tango plods along with little enthusiasm. If the rider's hands give the slightest unintentional tug on the reins, the gelding screeches to a halt. None of this disobedience is performed with a sour attitude. In fact, Tango expresses extreme patience while waiting for the rider to ask a question that he clearly understands and can answer correctly.
Last month a fourth grader named Natalie leased Tango so that she could practice her riding on a more frequent basis. She enjoyed the challenge of riding the horse in addition to caring for him on the days that she came out to the barn. With great determination, Natalie rode Tango in the ring, working mostly on keeping him next to the rail and moving forward at the trot. Her progress was steady but frequently, Tango resorted to his antics if Natalie got tired or lost focus. Although she had learned to canter on steady Sandi, Natalie had yet to canter the more forward gait that Tango expresses.
The extended beautiful fall weather has provided many opportunities to ride on the trail after working out in the ring. It is a good way for both horse and rider to relax in each other's company after matching wills in the ring. Usually, this phase of the ride occurs uneventfully. However, I always walk along on foot just in case...
"Whoa!" a small voice commanded behind me.
A sickening thought took hold as I turned my head in Natalie's direction. She was navigating Tango across the top of the great hill above our sand-pit field. Spying the green grass below and without Natalie's permission, Tango decided to abandon the trail and head down the hill for a snack. Of course the sooner he got there the sooner he could eat. Suddenly, he was in full gallop down the grassy slope that would ultimately lead him to the field. In horror I watched Natalie's hot pink T-shirt become smaller and smaller with each thundering stride down the steep hill.
to be continued....
|Tango is this novice rider's favorite mount.|