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.
|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!|
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!:)