The Zoo Keeper
(April, 2010) My mom is the one who first introduced me to horses. Horses were, and still are, a passion of hers and I credit her for planting that seed in me. She is the one that taught me to ride and care for my horse. She taught me
to both respect and admire their power and the importance of building trust and a partnership with them. My riding and horsemanship have evolved over the years, but a love for horses is something we still share.
My sister, on the other hand, was never very interested in horses. She liked them well enough I suppose, but her real passion was ice-skating. Still, I don't think my mom was any less proud when she watched my sister land a jump on skates than she was when she watched me land a jump on horseback.
A few years ago, Santa brought the kids a pony, Cupcake, for Christmas. I'm pretty sure he thought he was planting the same seed in my kids that my mom planted in me. But in hindsight, it seems Santa was a little premature. While both the kids thought she was cute and liked to give her carrots, neither
were all that eager to ride or do much of anything with her.
For a while I told myself, "Oh, it's just because she's always there. They are used to having horses around, so it's no big deal for them to have their own pony in their back yard. To them, it's just like having another cat or dog."
Eventually though, I realized that while my conclusion was correct, it was not for the reason I'd thought - that "she's always there." It was "no big deal" because they just weren't that interested in horses.
My horse friends would ask me, "Are you disappointed that the kids aren't interested in riding?"
"Maybe, a little," I'd say. "But that's ok. This way I still have something that's my own thing, something that I don't have to share with anyone else."
And while that was true, a part of me was sad to let go of the daydreams I'd had. Daydreams about letting them play hooky from school to go for a trail ride on a nice day, helping them braid for a horse show, and horse-camping trips like the ones I used to take with my mom.
In time, I all but stopped asking if they wanted to ride Cupcake. I figured they know she's there and if they want to ride, they'll say so. Nobody said so, and so Cupcake continued to be a lawn ornament.
You know how when people are looking for a relationship, they can't find the right person but then, when they stop looking, Mr./Mrs. Right magically appear? Apparently the same holds true for kids and horses.
One day, out of the blue, Kara asked if she could ride Cupcake. "Sure," I said. "You go change your shoes and I'll start getting Cupcake ready." I had no sooner gotten Cupcake through the gate than Kara came running back out to the barn.
We brushed her, tacked her up and headed out to the ring to ride. The first thing I noticed was that Kara was uncharacteristically bold this day. Usually, she was more timid, but this time she wanted to do everything by herself. I obliged.
When we finished with Cupcake I asked Kara if she'd had fun. "Yes, can I ride Tia now?"
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Tia is my Quarter Horse that I used to compete. She is as honest and trustworthy as they come, but she is also much, much bigger than Cupcake. "You want to ride Tia?"
"Yep. Can I?"
"Well, ok. We'll have to put my saddle on her because Cupcake's is too small. My saddle doesn't have the horn to hold onto like Cupcake's does."
"That's ok. I don't need anything to hold on to."
Unbelievable. "Ok, let's get Tia."
Watching Kara ride Tia made me think back to when I used to ride a big Thoroughbred named Red. I was about 6-7years old and my mom used to tell me I looked like pea on a rock. That's exactly what Kara looked like - my fearless little pea on my big, trusty rock.
Since that day, Kara has been asking to ride more and more. She's even written on her calendar "Ride Tia" and "Horse Day." When we go to the bus stop in the morning, she brings a stick so we can play "horse jumping" while we wait for the bus.
Still, I have made a point of telling her that while I think it's cool that she's becoming interested in riding, it's perfectly ok if she changes her mind or doesn't want to. I've told her that what makes me happiest is seeing her do things that make her happy. If riding makes her happy, that's great.
If something else makes her happy, that's great too.
I don't know how much of that registers in her 6-year-old brain, but I'm trying not to put any pressure on her. I'm also trying not to go overboard "encouraging" her to ride. I did buy her some of her own riding equipment and tack, but that's a safety issue. Ok, so maybe the purple reins weren't for
safety but they are smaller and easier on her little hands than leather.
I have no idea whether or not her current interest in riding will last and I'm ok with it either way. Yes, it would be pretty special to share horses with my daughter like my mom shared with me. I would share them with Gavin too but right now, he still thinks it's more fun to clean their stalls than to
On the other hand, if neither of them hold an interest in horses, then riding will remain "my thing," and that's pretty special too - Riding is the one thing I have that allows me to be "Layla," not just "Mom."
So for now, we wait and see. The apple may not fall far from the tree, but there's no telling where it will roll once it hits the ground.
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