Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Future Equestrian?

I've been meaning to do a post about my daughter for awhile now, and I got some inspiration from this post by Liz.  She wrote about how well Q is doing as a lesson horse for a young girl, and it reminded me how amazing our journeys with our horses can be.  Q has had spooking issues for Liz in the past, but Liz' work with her has helped her be a horse that can be trusted around children.  In a similar way, Nimo has really progressed from being a horse that I would never have even considered using around children to one that I can use with my own daughter (within certain boundaries, of course, because he can still be a bit spooky out on trails).  His sheer size was a little intimidating to Gemma for awhile, but particularly within the last couple of months, she has been feeling a lot more comfortable around him.

It is my deepest desire for Gemma to have a grand passion in her life.  Whether it is horses or photography or nursing people back to health, I hope that she has something that gives her as much joy (and sorrow) as horses have given me.  Of course, I really hope she loves horses, but I understand that each person has to follow her own path.  That hasn't stopped me from exposing her to the barn life, though. At just six weeks old, I had Nimo meet her under Grandpa's careful supervision.  She mostly slept through this visit (as 6 week old babies do) as well as many future visits, but over time, she became more interested in what I did out at the barn.




When Gemma was about 15 months old, I decided to try riding with her to see how she felt about it.  She seemed to think it was OK, but nothing earth shattering.


I waited a few months and tried again.  By this time, I had procured The Cutest Saddle Ever, and I was excited to try it out.  It was a western pony saddle, so it was wide enough for Nimo, but the cinch situation was less than ideal, and I could tell Nimo wasn't that happy about it.  However, he had developed an unexpected tolerance for stuff on his back that he didn't like (he used to crow hop every time I got a new saddle pad), so I decided to give it a try.

Help me!  My helmet is too big!  And what am I supposed to do with this thing in front of me?

Gemma's reaction was a little less than enthusiastic, so I decided to give riding a rest for awhile.  Instead, I just brought her out to the barn with me periodically, which she loved.  She always wanted to carry Nimo's red feed bucket around (which drove all the horses NUTS if they were in) and she adored the two barn cats, who were and still are remarkably tolerant of an adoring toddler.


Dear Mom, please comb my hair!
Lately, though, she's been desperate to go out to the barn Every Single Day.  And she wants to help with everything horse-related.  We've actually gotten quite the routine down.

She helps me mix Nimo's feed, and she is insistent that all Smartpaks are immediately unpacked and placed in their proper place (as distinct from my method of lobbing the box in the garage in the general vicinity of the feed and then hunting for it when I've realized I have run out of them).


She also asks to ride, and she understands that she has to wear her helmet before she can get on.


She picks out the brushes that we'll use for Nimo and adamantly directs my attention to any dirt spots that she can't get, which due to her short stature and lack of skill with a curry comb, is pretty much all of them...


She insists that she gets to hold the lead rope and "lead" Nimo to the arena (as well as in and out of his stall or paddock).  I supervise this process pretty closely and always try to keep between her and Nimo, but we have to start somewhere:)


Because Nimo wasn't happy with The Cutest Saddle Ever and we're not doing anything other than a short walk around the arena, I'm using a bareback pad for Gemma to ride on right now, and it seems to work pretty well.



As you can see, her expression is happy and she truly seems to enjoy her rides now.  But I can tell that I'm going to have to up my game soon because she wants to do more than just wander around.  I haven't worked out a great solution for riding with her because neither my dressage saddle nor my endurance saddle has a lot of extra room for even a small child, but if I put her in front of the saddle, she's on Nimo's withers.  He actually seems OK with it, but I'd prefer having her in the saddle with me.  Both of us on the bareback pad works really well, but I need a second person to help because it's hard for me to get on after Gemma is already on and I can't put her on after me because she's too little.  Some experimentation will likely ensue because I want to be safe, but I see no reason why we can't go together on short rides around the farm.

Anyway, after a short ride, it's back to the barn to pull tack and give Nimo a snack for his patience.  And then there is the clean up.  Gemma is horrified by the mess Nimo makes when he eats his Chaffhaye, so she demands that we clean it up.



Then she brings Nimo an extra flake of hay, regardless of whether he needs it (I think she gets that from me).


And finally, she checks Nimo's feed bin to gather any empty feed bags and to make sure there is a sufficient quantity of full bags before we go.


On the way to the truck, if she sees a barn cat, she needs to give him one more petting before we go.


I don't know what the future holds for my daughter, but I love that she seems to enjoy all animals, and I especially love that she enjoys the tasks associated with caring for Nimo as much as or even more than she enjoys riding.  I think that a person can't really be a "horseperson" until the care of the horse is as important as riding, and I'm happy to do whatever I can to encourage and nurture Gemma as she learns to care for animals.  (She has become especially relentless about our guinea pigs' water - as soon as a bottle is less than half full, she nags at me to fill it no matter how much I explain that there is a second, completely full bottle).  So stay tuned for our future adventures!:)

14 comments:

  1. I LOVED this post and was grinning like an idiot while reading. During downtime at work, of course. ;) I saw your FB post about Gemma asleep after riding and was hoping you would write about it! I think it's hilarious that she is so very tidy and organized at such a young age, and it is so so awesome that she wants to be so involved in the barn and the general care of the animals around her.

    I'm having a hard time deciding which photo I like best! Of course the ones of her on Nimo, and the one of her dragging the giant shovel behind her, and the one with the two adoring barn cats, but I think my absolute fave is the one of her holding the end of the lead rope with Nimo's muzzle and mane so close to her. <3

    I will look forward to reading more about Gemma's adventures with you and your animals, horses or otherwise! :D

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    1. Thanks, Saiph:) I have no idea if Gemma's behavior is normal or not, although I do remember reading somewhere that 2-year olds can be compulsive in their behaviors as they try to make sense of the world around them. And if only she was as tidy with her toys as she is with other forms of mess:)

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  2. Oh, how I wish my own kiddos had some interest in horses! In their eyes, all horses except Ruby are unpredictable poo factories. That's okay, though, I'm sure one day I'll have horse-loving grandbabies.

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    1. Well, I have to say that I kind of agree with your kids:) Nimo produces A LOT of poop!

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  3. T was interested in riding, which I would have supported fully had he also wanted to learn the other parts, but in typical 13 year old boy behavior, he decided not to ride rather than to learn the other parts. *Shrug* Can't have one without the other, in my book.

    Gemma is absolutely adorbs. Seriously. What a cute kid!! Too bad you don't have a well-trained mini for her to ride.

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    1. Thanks, Karen:) And yes, a mini or
      small pony would be awesome, but ones that are safe for kids are few and far between in this area and I suspect she would graduate to something bigger fairly quickly anyway:)

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  4. I see a pony in your future. Your daughter is so charming, and I admire her devotion to all animals. And her determination to get her own way. I wonder where she gets that trait from. ;-)

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    1. Thanks, Martha:) I hope you're right about the pony! And it is possible that she gets her persistence and determination from me:) It's kind of a pain now, but it will serve her well later in life!

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  5. I adore your daughter. Oh my goodness.

    Ideas for next steps riding based on my experience with Lily:

    - Lead line lessons: you can have the reins on or off. I give Lily choices of what we will do so she has control and gains confidence. Her choices are usually only between two things and always something active. She can't make a wrong choice this way and always learns more.
    - If Nimo will follow you as Q does me, the next step is to have a looser lead between you that encourages Gemma to steer. Baby steps at first with choices like Before to set her up for success and confidence.
    - Obstacles to steer around. Cones. Buckets. Anything. My personal favorite though is people. People as cones provides more eyes and hands if something goes amiss. The kid finds it easier to go to each person instead of numbered cones. It's fun to make silly faces at the kid if it's your turn as the cone too. I find this helpful as I'm trying to teach lily to look where she is going ahead of time (seek out next destination as she reaches current one so she learns to think ahead; her hands also folow her eyes and tell the horse what to do). If the next destination person is making funny faces then lily is more inclined to look ahead because she doesn't want to miss a funny face. Two additional humans is perfect to make this exercise work. I will instruct them to move from location to location to encourage lily to navigate all around the usable area. We started small but now use the whole pen when working as she has built more confidence.
    - I always ask Lily to tell Q "I'm the boss buster!" As it is fun to say and instills more confidence in her leadership skills.


    ..so many more tidbits I'm surw, but those are the ones that come to mind currently. I hope they help a little. :-)

    Gemma is such an incredible little person. I look forward to meeting her one day.

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  6. I adore your daughter. Oh my goodness.

    Ideas for next steps riding based on my experience with Lily:

    - Lead line lessons: you can have the reins on or off. I give Lily choices of what we will do so she has control and gains confidence. Her choices are usually only between two things and always something active. She can't make a wrong choice this way and always learns more.
    - If Nimo will follow you as Q does me, the next step is to have a looser lead between you that encourages Gemma to steer. Baby steps at first with choices like Before to set her up for success and confidence.
    - Obstacles to steer around. Cones. Buckets. Anything. My personal favorite though is people. People as cones provides more eyes and hands if something goes amiss. The kid finds it easier to go to each person instead of numbered cones. It's fun to make silly faces at the kid if it's your turn as the cone too. I find this helpful as I'm trying to teach lily to look where she is going ahead of time (seek out next destination as she reaches current one so she learns to think ahead; her hands also folow her eyes and tell the horse what to do). If the next destination person is making funny faces then lily is more inclined to look ahead because she doesn't want to miss a funny face. Two additional humans is perfect to make this exercise work. I will instruct them to move from location to location to encourage lily to navigate all around the usable area. We started small but now use the whole pen when working as she has built more confidence.
    - I always ask Lily to tell Q "I'm the boss buster!" As it is fun to say and instills more confidence in her leadership skills.


    ..so many more tidbits I'm surw, but those are the ones that come to mind currently. I hope they help a little. :-)

    Gemma is such an incredible little person. I look forward to meeting her one day.

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    1. Thanks for all the great ideas, Liz!

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  7. Oh my god, so cute. I can't wait! O probably won't ride long term, but I bet he'll go through that "help mom" phase, and if he's half as cute as Gemma that's good enough! :D

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  8. OH! MY! GOSH! How cute is that! Gemma is a gem and a cutie patootie!

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  9. OH! MY! GOSH! How cute is that! Gemma is a gem and a cutie patootie!

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