All Petra wanted for her birthday was to ride a horse or pony. Unfortunately, most places don’t take kids under 5. Thanks to a connection in the local equestrian community, I was able to arrange for her to have a riding lesson with Karen, who has horses and ponies on a farm about 45 minutes away.
Petra was ecstatic. I thought maybe she’d be intimidated by such a big animal, but she was completely confident.
Her lesson began with brushing the pony, Sampson. I appreciate this beginning, which I’ve seen in each of the “riding lesson”-type experiences I’ve been part of (including the memorable day when Carlos got to ride at a Big Brothers/Big Sisters event). I like how it emphasizes care for the animal, right from the start—and also the work involved in the sport. You don’t just show up and get on a horse. I like this care and preparation. It makes me want to require my actors to sweep the stage before rehearsal, instead of leaving it for stage management.
She even helped lift the saddle onto him. I heard her say, “Oh! It’s so heavy!” even though I’m sure she wasn’t bearing much of the weight.
We walked up the hill…
…and the next thing I knew, she was on top of a pony!
The look on her face was completely priceless. It was all that she had hoped it would be, and more.
She listened very carefully to Karen’s instructions, and she was very confident when it was time to give the horse a command (although she did need a reminder every time of what to say).
She rode up hill and down hill, learned to guide the horse using the reins, and rode over poles, standing up in the stirrups each time.
She did “tricks,” like turning around in the saddle and touching her toes.
I was too fascinated to think about taking a video until she was almost done, so I only got this one, but it’s pretty cute.
And then she learned to dismount. I couldn’t believe how confident she was about the whole thing. She had absolutely no fear of falling off of this pony. She still makes me catch her at the bottom of the slide, but this was no big deal to her.
After she was done riding Sampson, she got to meet Trigger, the “just my size horse.” He was penned because he has a bit of an attitude problem, but Petra got to pet him and give him some treats. She was enthralled because he was truly the exact right size for her.
Karen was fantastic with her, keeping the lesson varied enough that Petra stayed interested for the whole hour, but also helping her feel totally safe.
This seems like the kind of thing Petra might want to do regularly when she’s bigger. Right now, I think she needs to grow a ton—even the pony was big for her!—but I could see this being part of Petra’s life. I’m so glad that she got to have this experience, and that it was so overwhelmingly positive.