Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pony Down!

Yesterday I didn't have to work, I canceled on pilates because I didn't know if my daughter would be well enough to go to school, but she ended up going so I had a whole day to catch up on all the "things I have to do" (ie: pay bills, change the battery in the Subaru, take care of my horses, put up the outside x-mas lights, clean the house, etc. ad nauseum).  I was dragging myself around doing stuff and wishing I could lie on the couch and read my latest library book (because I've been working outside in the freezing cold and I deserve a day off!) when my co-worker called and asked if I could sub for her because a pipe had burst in her barn.

I went and picked my daughter up from school (since I had no last minute after school care) and went to work, set the girl up in the heated classroom with homework and her iPad and got the pony all ready for his lesson.  Then waited. And waited.  And waited some more.  Until another instructor came out to the barn to get ready for her class and said, "No way! You rushed out here to sub for T. and now her student didn't show up?!"  So I went and got my daughter and asked her if she wanted to ride a pony for the remaining time of the class since he was all tacked up.

We've been having the kids ride bareback because not only is it super cold out and that feels good, but also because it helps their balance and we've got quite a few new little kids right now who are not balancing well and are taking their saddles with them when they start to slide - which is very hard on the ponies' backs.  Bareback really gives little kids the opportunity to rely on their own balance instead of relying on pushing their feet into stirrups or holding onto the saddle.

But my daughter has only ridden bareback twice and the first time was horrible because she got bucked off an angry little pony owned by a crazy drunk woman who I finally forbid my daughter from riding her ponies anymore.  The second time was fine but a few months after that I went flying off my horse bareback and broke myself so that was stuck in her head and making her worried.  She was definitely far more affected by my accident in January than I was when it comes to fear.  But part of that is because I knew if I didn't start riding again as soon as I could that I would never ride again.  So the doctor told me I could ride quietly at a walk by six weeks if I felt better, so I hopped on at 5.5 weeks (ok - "hop" is not really the right word - I painfully struggled on with a lot of stiffness and "oofs").  Then I rode around at a slow walk for ten minutes crying my eyes and shaking because I was so terrified but I knew if I didn't do it my days of riding were over and I'd never get back on a horse.  But I wasn't going to force my little girl to do that.  I'm a tough mom but I'm not mean and there was no way I was going to put her kicking and screaming on a horse against her will.

After working at pony camp last summer though she got back her confidence and she was taking riding lessons until it got really cold and now she wants to wait until it's warm again.  But she did ride her new horse, Geir and loves him.  And I was happy she wanted to go ride the pony even though it was bareback.

So, she gets on and the pony was feeling pretty peppy and walked off at a fast walk with her.  She was still getting herself settled and trying to calm down her own apprehensions about riding, but I figured she had enough experience if she wanted him to stop she could or I could talk her through it if she wanted - I didn't need to go intervene.  Unfortunately, as he was walking off he was going straight for the ground poles and my daughter decided she wanted to stop him right when he got to them which diverted his attention from where he was going and he caught his foot on a ground pole and next thing I know he's doing some sort of cartoon "front legs scrambling" to try and regain his balance and bam! He goes down with his butt up in the air into a face plant and my daughter rolls off and lands right on a ground pole.  Ouch!

Much as I was horrified that my daughter had just lived her worst fear after already being so scared -  which is falling off - it was so funny seeing this fat little pony face plant I couldn't stop myself from laughing.  I asked her if she was OK and between laughing and groaning and she said she was fine but her hip hurt where she fell on the ground pole.  I helped her up and brushed her off and was glad she was still laughing.  But when I told her to get back on she refused saying her hip hurt too much.  In this case I was mean and I told her she had no choice and she was getting back on.  She got back on with a very sour expression and was shaking a little so I said I'd lead her around for a bit until she felt better and the movement would help her hip (ok - that was a lie but I didn't want her to never ride again).  To my relief, after about ten minutes she said, "I'm fine now, I'm just going to walk around a little with the pony and you don't have to be with me," and wandered off across the arena with him. Yay!

On the way home she talked about how she was lucky she didn't break her hip and I explained she did not fall far enough or hard enough and the ground poles are hollow plastic and it's unlikely she'd break anything falling on them.  She said if she was riding Geir (who is taller) she would've broken something.  And I told her she still wouldn't break anything and explained I had fallen on frozen ground that was as hard as asphalt from a horse that was quite a bit taller than any of the pony school horses and that I was also unlucky because of the angle I fell and that it's really not that common to break stuff when you fall off your horse.  Especially not in the good footing they have at the school.  So maybe this was a good thing and it has helped her feel a little bit safer knowing that it's really not common when riding in a well maintained arena (which I wasn't riding in in January) to break stuff and get carted away in an ambulance.

After we put the pony away I gave her one of our purple heart necklaces we give out if a student falls off and when she told her dad about it later in the evening she couldn't stop laughing about the pony's face plant and how she thought he was just bucking until his face went into the ground.

Just to make sure I took the pony back to the arena later and made sure he actually stepping over ground poles and hadn't stumbled because he was sore somewhere and couldn't pick up his feet.  He followed me around stepping over poles for ten minutes and never stumbled once so it was definitely a fluke of an accident where he just stumbled because my daughter was asking him to stop right when he would've been picking his feet up to step over the pole.

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