Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Life's Teaching Moments, Some Days I Need to be Reminded.

These are in fact the same thickness.
Some days with all that goes on at the farm it is all I can do to remember to put socks on in the morning. Not even matching socks, just socks that my boots won't eat. You know the kind. Take 10 steps and you are stopping to pull them back up from the toe of your boot.  If I am lucky the socks are somewhere close to the same material and thickness. Uneven thickness is annoying as well. One thick sock, one thin sock. One foot gets hot, the other slides around in your boot. Whew Nicole, focus....

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.

Fast forward 8 hours and the 1 hour drive home. I won't lie, after a full weekend of horse activities, horse show and full lesson day on Sunday, taking out a trail ride was not what I had on the agenda. Much less a trail ride with a 7 year old. Historically those rides go one of two ways... really good or OMG really bad. As a matter of fact Mondays are generally a decompress day. Luckily when I got home Genna and David had the ponies ready. The enthusiastic mother and her less than enthusiastic son had arrived. I have never seen a child so obsessed with and worried about the location of the flying insects at my farm. Do they sting? Do they bite? Why do you have so many? What is that? (do they not have stink bugs in Vermont?) A feeling of doom washed over me and a flash back to the summer of 2012 when the teenage girl petrified of flying insects launched herself off the side of one of my horses into the gravel to escape a horsefly or bee while the horse was walking. (that my friends is a tale for another day) Snapping back to the present, we took the horses into the ring to begin mounting. Another 20 minutes later we were mounted and ready to ride. I fully expected to be leading this young man shortly after we started the trail. I just knew it.  Fifteen more minutes in and we were in the mouth of the trail when the full whining meltdown is starting to commence. I do not like whining, I do not like it Sam I Am.  Rocky, this young man's mount,  was being his normal self ambling down the trail slower than a 3 toed sloth, if that is even possible, stopping in true Rocky fashion, to snack on the trees down the trail. The young man was pulling back on the reins and kicking at the same time, which Rocky purposely ignored as he continued to snack.

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.