This past Sunday morning, before the long string of lessons began, Lorelei and I got to the barn so she could ride Sadie by herself. I stayed in the middle of the ring, happy to pretend to be her instructor, being careful to cheer more than correct. Lorelei guided Sadie around the ring, working on getting the correct diagonal while trotting, and transitioning quickly and smoothly from a walk to a canter. She made circles, figure eights, and turns at the quarter line. All was good.
Lorelei pushed Sadie to the middle of the ring to talk with me before doing one last thing, and when she pulled Sadie back to the ring after we chatted, Sadie spooked. Sadie jumped to the left, Lorelei fell to the right. BAM.
|Lorelei and Sadie, November 2015|
This was a first for Lorelei. She knew that, at some point, she'd fall from a horse. She had heard my stories of falling--the silly first time when my pony coughed and put his neck down and I toppled right over to the most dramatic time when my horse flipped over me while jumping a bank jump. But someone else's stories don't fully prepare you for doing it yourself.
Lorelei stood up, shaking and crying and confused. I held her for a full minute and I wiped the dirt off her fleece. After a few minutes, I told her she had to get back on--right away. Because that stuff you hear about getting right back on a horse when you fall off is true. You have to, or else the fear lingers and grows and festers. She protested a little but, as she always does, did what I told her to do. After walking for a minute, she trotted around the ring, still shaking and crying. By the time she got back to me and squeezed the reins to a walk, I was crying, too.
We walked around the ring together, talking. Ever-logical Lorelei explained to me her hypothesis about horses freaking out in that I've-figured-out-something-big-that-no-one-else-has tone of voice. Lorelei thought that the two boy-ponies she had ridden and who had spooked (but she'd stayed on) did it at the rail, right there. Sadie, a girl-pony, had spooked in the middle of the ring. Ergo, she knew what to look out for next time. Next time, she'd be ready.
"Sweetie," I said in my I'm-about-to-pass-on-some-wisdom-here tone of voice. We humans want answers, we want the solutions to problems that seem mysterious--it's as if our brains don't like unanswered questions. Because uncertainty stinks! So often our brains get this relief and satisfaction with clear answers and correct solutions. Especially in math and science and geography quizzes like the one in her class last week. But in other subjects, like music and art, there aren't true answers. Things are more random. That's what makes them beautiful.
And horseback riding, that's more art than math. We're riding around on animals that have a mind of their own that we can often, but not always, predict and guide. That's the beauty and the struggle--and what makes riding interesting.
I witnessed my daughter's first fall off a pony. I helped her up, hugged her, brushed her off, and got back on. I know I won't always be there to do this, but I was so very grateful to be there the