|These are in fact the same thickness.|
With farm life comes daily everything or twice daily as the case may be. Keeping up with 22 horses, 6 dogs, 4 cats, a teenager, and a significant other can become pretty daunting. Luckily both Genna and Don can forage for food assuming I remember to go to the grocery store. Throw in a full time job with an hour commute each way and poof my day is mapped out for you from 7:00am until 9:00pm or later.
So yesterday I had just gotten to work and my cell phone rings. It is an out of state call, Vermont. Flipping through my mental Rolodex, "Do I know anyone from Vermont"? The answer is no. Second ring.... Sales call or horse call, answer or goto voice mail... decisions. "Oh what the hell, Good Morning, Nicole speaking" (Forced Smile to seem chipper). On the other end of the phone was a nice lady looking for a trail ride, on a Monday no less. I politely explained I am trapped in corporate america prison until 5pm and that I could do a trail ride at 6:30pm, mentally praying that I had not forgotten some after school function Genna might have and that she would be able to get horses ready. We set a time for 6:30 pm. It dawned on me to ask how old her son was. "He is 7", she replied.
Well Damn Damn Damn and Double damn. I didn't want to disappoint her but I generally don't take out kids on the trail younger than 10 unless they have experience. I sighed to myself and kept the trail ride appointment. Mentally kicking myself and dreading the experience. Young children on the trail are especially challenging. Don't get me wrong I love teaching kids, in a ring, with a fence, with no grass or trees for the horse to stop and snack on.
I took a deep breath. "Take your hand and slide it forward on your right rein and pull it to your knee. Kick him and tell him to WALK ON."
"But I can't", he whined.
"Can't never could", I said sternly. I went on to explain what that phrase meant in plain English to a 7 year old hell bent on sabotaging his first trail experience. Not on my watch. I repeated myself. He grabbed the rein, pulled hard right, kicked Rocky and yelled, "GO". Rocky continued to snack.
"Tell him to WALK ON," I repeated. "Why," he whined. "Because he doesn't understand GO," I said. It is really in those moments that I wish I studied enough of a foreign language to say something completely sarcastic to the child so they can say "HUH" to punctuate my point. My horses know "walk, trot, canter, whoa, walk on, back, etc." you get the point.
Have I mentioned I HATE whining? Anyway we managed to make it down the wooded part of the trail after about 10 minutes. All the while I repeated myself about 200 times. "Slide your right hand forward and pull the rein to your knee and get his face out of the trees. Kick him and tell him to walk on." I said it with a smile and all the "Look you are doing it" and "Good Jobs" I could muster. Rocky loves when little kids ride him. I think he enjoys torturing them. He is guaranteed to be able to snack at least part of the trail. I know he does it on purpose. Fast forward 15 more minutes. We had been chit chatting and I repeated instructions at least 10 more times and then it happened. This young man had a break through. Gone was the whining, THANK GOD, replaced by the "I am doing it, I know how to ride now!" He was so loud they may have heard him in Vermont.
Both his mom and I chuckled a bit and continued on the trail. By the time we were headed down the home stretch 3/4 of the way home, not only was he successfully navigating through the trail he was singing old western songs. His mother explained that he was fascinated by westerns and watched them all. When we got back to the barn he thanked me and told me he had a great time. He asked to feed Rocky, he helped me untack and groom Rocky. His mother pulled me to the side and explained to me that her son was adopted and he had tons of anxiety issues when introduced to new situations coupled with ADHD. She went on to explain the fact that he even made it through the trail without a total meltdown was amazing.
Sometimes I get caught up in the daily grind and forget why I teach, invite adults and children, complete strangers to the farm to ride. I grumble and moan, sometimes all I want to do is come home and crash on the couch after a day at work. However 100% of the time I always feel better when I go to the barn and ride a horse or teach a lesson. I can tell you that I enjoy every time I see the smile on a kids face when they finally figure out they are controlling a 1000lb animal. Or see a kid who in every other aspect of their life lack the focus to get through their day without being reprimanded give me 100% of their focus to me and the horse they are riding. This young man is now hooked. His mother now has another tool in which to help her son overcome some of his anxiety and focus issues. All because I answered a Vermont phone number and agreed to take a trail ride. It was an hour and a half well spent.