The Riding School: We are family

This week, the Riding Instructor shares her experience of teaching three generations of a family–all in a single lesson.

From the Riding Instructor:

Let me tell you about my favorite lesson.  It’s not the lesson that has the best kids in it, although they are fun to teach.  It’s not the one with the sparky little kids whose grit and determination get more out of the school ponies than the big kids, even though their little legs don’t come down below the saddle flap.  I adore those children, but they aren’t the group I’m talking about.  My current favorite lesson is one that exemplifies everything that I think is valuable about horseback riding as a lifetime sport.  My current favorite lesson features three generations of the same family together: a grandmother in her sixties, a pair of cousins in their thirties, and a pre-teen (niece of the cousins).  Together, they are a wonderful example of the recreational riding experience.

Only one of the cousins had any significant riding experience before they started taking lessons with me; the adults struggled with balance, security, and getting the horses to do what they wanted, while the pre-teen had some fear issues.  But they genuinely enjoy riding, even though they can only come every other week.  Slowly, over the course of this year, they have progressed through working to keep the horses on the rail at the walk, through being able to post consistently and rhythmically at the trot, to confidently cantering and going over ground poles.  Each of them have their favorite horse; they’ve worked to be able to tack up well (although the noseband and throatlatch still need a little supervision) and enjoying cooling their horses out at the end of the ride.  None of them have any grand ambitions as riders; they set reasonable, achievable goals, such as cantering twice around the ring or feeling comfortable trotting a crossrail.  They still try hard, though, plugging away without stirrups or at the sitting trot, but they always keep it fun.

And this is why I so enjoy teaching them.  Each lesson isn’t necessarily a means to an end; it’s a chance for a family to spend time together, to enjoy the company of the animals, to make some slow, steady progress forward in their skills.  The older ones are excellent models of persistence for the younger and they can all, no matter that there are close to fifty years separating them, move forward at about the same pace.  They aren’t going to Rolex – heck, they might not even make as far as the barn schooling shows – but they love the horses and their riding and are content with their progress.  They are each other’s biggest fans, admiring each other’s achievements, in part because they know how much work goes into each small step forward.  Family bonding doesn’t get a whole lot better than that!  Their shared experience has brought them closer together and I have felt privileged to be a part of it.

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