Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Gemma Rides!

If you've been following my blog for very long, you've probably seen the occasional appearance of my daughter as she has "ridden" Nimo while I have him on a lunge line or lead rope.  Nimo, as wonderful as he is, though, is not really a kid's or a beginner's horse.  His size alone can be intimidating and if paired with a rider who doesn't know what she is doing, his go-to move is stopping (and eating if the possibility exists).  He can also be a bit spooky, and he really requires an advanced rider with confidence (so probably somebody other than me, really...).  That said, he was always really lovely with Gemma and behaved himself even better than I could have imagined.  But I've always known it is because I am asking him and I am right there.

This summer, I realized that the lunging sessions I was doing with Gemma and Nimo were probably not enough anymore.  She was really ready to be more independent.  But we are not quite in the position to get a pony/horse for her yet, and my husband still feels very opposed to the expense of one (just wait until she starts getting interested in boys, then I think my husband will want her at the barn as much as possible, LOL!).

As luck would have it, a good friend met me for breakfast one day and offered up the use of her horse, Holly.  You may remember Holly from her brief appearance a few years ago when I started riding her again (I had ridden her quite a bit while Nimo was still too young to ride), and I think she is really a lovely horse.  She is older now and had gotten a second career at a therapeutic riding school and as a horse for a girl Gemma's age (5 at the time).  My friend also had an experienced rider work with her several times a week for awhile, because she was unable to get out and ride herself.  However, over time, the little girl rode less and the experienced rider moved to another barn, so Holly was languishing a bit with only 1-2 rides each week at the therapeutic riding school.

My friend trusted me to work with Holly because I had in the past, and she knew Gemma would be a great fit.  I was so excited about it because Holly was boarded at a barn that was basically on the way to where I keep Nimo, so I wouldn't be investing a huge amount of extra time and Gemma could get some good experiences.

This plan worked out really well at first.  We started by having Gemma get to know Holly and practice leading her before she got on and rode.

Holly is so easy for a little girl to lead!

Gemma's first ride was quite short but you can see in the video how comfortable she is on Holly.  I had to laugh, though.  You see Gemma pointing a couple of times in the video and that is because she is telling Holly what direction to go in - she hasn't learned how to use the reins or her body yet!:)

Unfortunately, Holly became quite lame suddenly.  We had come out one morning to for Gemma to ride and when we led her out of the stall, she was almost three-legged lame.  What followed was days and then weeks and then months of trying to diagnose the problem.  At one point, my friend was pressured into setting up a very expensive diagnostic appointment (which she thankfully cancelled before spending the money), a farrier recommended some kind of barbaric nerve severing surgery which used to be performed on racehorses all the time but isn't now, and one of the co-owners of the barn where Holly is boarded strongly suggested she should be put down.  I was worried sick through it all, and Gemma and I came out to the barn at least twice a week to video Holly walking so my friend could analyze the situation (she wasn't able to get out to the barn much herself).  In the end, it turned out to be the longest running abscess that I have ever heard of.

But the situation at the barn had deteriorated a bit because of what my friend discovered about her horse's care at the barn, which was not as optimal as she had expected.  Plus, she couldn't get out there very often because it was so far away from her house.  So, she decided to move Holly to a new barn close to her house.  It was a decision that I whole-heartedly supported, and I hauled Holly to her new barn myself.  But it also meant that Gemma would not be able to see Holly very much.

So I looked for another option.  The barn where I keep Nimo offers lessons on a variety of horses - most meant for jumping 2-3 feet.  But they have one pony who is used exclusively for lessons with little kids.  I'm not sure why I didn't look at the lessons more seriously sooner, except I guess I thought I should be the one to teach Gemma.  After giving it more thought and seeing the instructor with other kids in lessons, I decided to give it a try.

Gemma absolutely adored her lesson pony, Star.  The look on her face during her grooming time and riding time was so full of joy, I knew it was the right decision for her.

Working on balance with an "around the world" exercise
Leading star back to the barn after the lesson
I set up a regular Wednesday lesson time for Gemma and after the first couple of lessons seemed to go smoothly, I decided to see if I could ride Nimo while Gemma was in her lesson.  I think she was relieved not to have Mom constantly watching her every move, and I can't tell you what a joy it has been to have a regular night to ride Nimo, even if I only get 30 minutes.

Gemma grooming Star before her lesson
My new view on Wednesday nights!
I have to admit that 30 minutes is not really enough time for me to really accomplish all that I want to do, so Nimo and I mostly work on Pignot jog (more about that in another post) and canter sets.  Yes, you read that right, canter sets.  Because we do things like that now:)  Sometimes we even go over a really tiny jump.  Sometimes Nimo even consents to canter over that tiny jump.  It's a ton of fun and I'm so glad that I have no excuse to back out even on the colder nights we've been having lately because Gemma is 100% committed to her lessons.  When it is cold out now, she wears my warm riding skirt to stay comfortable, but she never suggests skipping the lesson.

Now I just need to figure out a way to convince my husband that her lessons should be an hour long and that she needs to have more than one a week...:)


  1. She looks so comfortable on and around the horses! She's the coolest kid.

    1. Thanks, Liz:) I think she's pretty great too!