Just about every little girl goes through a horse crazy phase right? I did, mine lasted longer than most. I rode for many years from around at 6/7, I attended pony camps, weekends mucking out stables, riding and having a great time.

Ava has hated every extra murals she has tried at school so far. She gets bored easily and doesn’t seem to enjoy sport, aside from swimming, she’s simply not interested. But for the longest time, like about the last two to two and a half years, she has asked to do horse riding. And it seems like a natural activity for her to want to do because she is animal crazy this child.

I looked into it briefly at the end of last year, but riding, it’s an expensive extra mural and every accredited school I found wanted in excess of R1000 a month for a weekly lesson, not to mention that they were all far away from our home. It just was simply not possible for us to enroll her in lessons, we had neither the time for the commute or the money.

But Ava’s love for horses and her desire to learn to ride did not diminish over the past year so last weekend, when we found ourselves back at Hobo’s Hide Livery & Partyland I asked the owner about lessons and their prices were amazing, R150 a lesson. Far cheaper than what I’d been quoted anywhere else and with an accredited trainer.

So she had her first lesson on Saturday and …… she LOVED IT!!

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She was so excited and of course, nervous for her first lesson. Which I understand, having been thrown, trampled, kicked and bitten in my life more times than I can remember. Horses are amazing animals, so intuitive but because of their size, they can hurt you. So she was frightened. But adamant she was doing it, she wanted to learn to ride.

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And guys, she was a super star. Mounting on her own first time, understanding the necessary posture, even getting a little rise in trot in there. The only thing she seemed to struggle with and that’s pure inexperience is understanding that she needs to be in control and sometimes the pony will want to do something else, like eat grass instead of doing a figure 8 or stop to grab some leaves off trees when she’s supposed to be trotting. But Ava will get there, she will learn to read and understand the pony and how to be in control.

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Riding is such an amazing activity for kids with so many benefits too. Physically, riding requires balance, coordination, forethought and empathy as well as being in control of your own emotions. Horses are very intuitive and sensitive. If you’re scared, you’ll make them act scared, if you’re insecure and unsure, the horse will be to, because horses can and often do, mirror the emotions of their rider,  this also goes a long way in developing a child’s confidence, in addition to fine and gross motor skill development.

Posture is important so you develop a strong core, strong back and legs as hard as iron. But you also learn to control your emotions and to be confident in yourself and thereby compassionately controlling your horse, noticing when there is a situation that may spook the pony and being able to preempt it, riding is as much emotional and mental development as it is physical development.

I loved the trainer Ava has, her name is Carina, and she does bitless and cropless training. So the horse is kindly and compassionately treated at all times and the rider learns to ride using leg signals and rein control as apposed to yanking and pulling on the horses mouth or hitting with a crop.

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You can see in the image above, Ava still hasn’t quite grasped the “heel down”grip her foot needs in the stirrup but she’ll get there.

The other amazing thing that happened yesterday is that watching Ava I remembered how much I used to LOVE to ride and it has been very many years. I may be a little desperate to get back in the saddle! And I’m waiting to hear back from Carina about whether there is a horse there I can ride and just observe Ava’s lessons, something we can do together and I can get some brushing up on my horsemanship after years out of the saddle. I couldn’t help thinking yesterday how sad it is, that we grow up and become “responsible” adults and along the way we get so bogged down in our responsibility that we forget about the things that brought out our passion and joy as children.

But overall, Ava loved it. She looked good and comfortable and she can’t wait to go back! I really hope we have found something that she will love and be passionate about!

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