I have never entertained the thought of not having riding lessons. However, I thought that my skills would improve quickly being able to ride with more experienced riders on a casual basis. Last summer, STA rode with me whenever she could. Her coaching was a tremendous help to me. But she started a new job that summer and her travel has increased making it difficult to schedule a routine ride. We try to get together at least once a month. My riding buddy, Jean, does not own a horse, but sometimes she does come out and ride with me.
Most adult riders at the stables ride much earlier in the day than I can. There is a small group, whose horses are boarded in the arena stalls (Gem is in the old barn), that get together regularly in the evenings and on the weekends. I am friendly with the Arena Gang, but unless I initiate it, an invitation to ride with them is not extended. They are always really nice to me when they see me, but I have come to realize that they just don't want to "babysit" me. It made me a little sad at first, but I can understand where they are coming from. So, I end up riding with the younger riders a lot.
Initially, I was a little embarrassed to be riding with the Young Ladies, but it has been great! I am always guaranteed company in the evening. There is no age discrimination when you love horses. The Young Ladies actually don't mind that I am older than their mothers - they think I'm cool. :-) Their average age is about 13 years old. They are courteous and patient with me, fun and know waaaaay more than I do. They love their horses and aren't shy about showing it. The Young Ladies all compete in reining and it's amazing what their horses can do. They don't mind me asking questions. A 12-year-old taught me how to a 90 degree turn! Imagine! They are always encouraging to each other, laughing and having fun. You can see the physical change in their horses as they pick up on the positive vibes. They get lighter on their feet, their bodies loosen up, they are almost dancing! Disciplining a horse is almost non-existent; there's no need to. The Young Ladies are fearless; we were comparing how many times we had fallen off our horses and one said she was into double digits!! Yikes!!
Riding in the arena with the Arena Gang is a bit different. The riders praise each other, but the displays of affection or praise towards the horses are fewer in number than with the younger riders. The energy level is not as light and fun. The horses don't dance. It is all business. The focus is a little more on what you are doing wrong. I was told I praise Gem too much. *sigh*
As usual, CH, RB and AT (aka Arena Gang) had arranged to meet and were just finishing their ride as I arrived at the arena. As I struggled to maneuver a mouthy, grumpy Gem around their horses, a comment was made that I was too nice to him and need to be tougher. *sigh*
So how is it that the Young Ladies can ask their horses to work willingly and happily without being "tough"? I want to learn their secret. The laughter, the lightness, the fun; does it really have to slip away when child turns to adult? The Young Ladies have helped me remember why I started riding in the first place. I recently started riding with a couple of other adult boarders. But, as long as they don't mind me hanging out with them, I am going to continue riding with the Young Ladies, too. I want to experience the laughter and energy that they exude for as long as I can. I want Gem to have opportunities to just be goofy. Yes, I am looking forward to experiencing my second childhood....bring it on, I say!!! :-)
What was I thinking....?