My children rode horses as a sport when they were younger. In fact my oldest still rides horses and takes every opportunity to ride she can get. This story is when they are quite young, my oldest was eight and my middle child was six. We owned one pony named Peek-a-boo, his show name was Hide N Seek! He was a paint pony with three colors. He was beautiful and a little spooky (which is horse language for afraid of everything). I had taken my kids over to the barn for their lesson and the youngest was only in the audience for this lesson. I brought one of my oldest daughter’s friends along too. This friend wanted to go and meet the horses and ponies. Upon arrival my kids would go into the barn grab a lead rope and ask their trainer who they were riding. Because we only owned one pony they would take turns riding him. The trainer was really great with kids and so she would give them options. My son loved to fall off of his ponies. I never understood this but there was another boy there too and he enjoyed it as well. They would have contests to see who could be thrown the furthest. They never did anything to the ponies to be thrown so it was a matter of being prepared for when the pony did something so that they could feign being thrown. It made the trainer laugh and at times I’m sure frustrated. My son would always choose the pony or horse with the most potential for doing some sort of trick, so that he could be “thrown”.
The trainer recently acquired a nice pony with a bit of a temper. He enjoyed bucking and had nice little tricks of his own. My son hears this pony’s name and he chooses him right off the bat. This pony is completely safe and he only did little things, but these little things were manageable to every rider including my son. My son however loved the theatrics of riding him. So out to the field they go. My gelding had to stay in with the mares because the other boys would beat him up. The other pony is in with the other geldings because he can hold his own. (A gelding is a male horse or pony who has no balls. Mine, poor thing, probably needed at least one!)
If you have ever seen children go out with a lead rope to catch ponies it is the cutest vision you will ever see. They go out with their helmets on, just to be safe, and the lead rope dangling (or swinging if that child is my son) and they have a handful of treats. The one they are usually trying to catch is the one furthest from the gate, Murphy’s law or something similar. They call the chosen pony and that pony will either prick their ears forward and think ‘Treats!” or pin their ears back and think “Work!”. Peek-a-boo is fat and he is the happy ears forward “treats!” kind. The other is kind of a dick so ears pinned back “work!” kind. But my son is determined and all of the other geldings come over for treats. My son is small and he pushes them away. By pushes them away, I mean that he takes both hands and shoves them, using all of his weight, out of the way. Usually yelling at them “Not You!” He finally convinces the one he is out there to catch to come in. He gets the lead rope clipped to the halter and pulls until the pony starts moving. As my son is coming up through the field he is singing and his head is bopping back and forth. The pony is following behind seemingly agreeable. Both kids get their ponies on cross-ties and they start their ritual of brushing and picking hooves. Picking hooves is a kid favorite, I don’t know if it is because they are challenging or because the kids just like to watch how much dirt they can pick out. My youngest grabs a brush too and she brushes anything that she can reach. Its adorable really. She is two.
The extra child that I bring is standing off in almost the other room and not at all going near the animals. I think this is strange since she begged me to bring her. But hey ponies and horses are big and if you’re not used to them they can be intimidating. I try to be understanding and I tell her that she can just sit and wait on our tack box.
The trainer tells them that the longer they brush the less time they have to ride but it is up to them which they spend more time doing. My kids get the ponies all tacked up and ready to go because they really want to ride. In this class there about five or six kids in the ring. We are inside because they are calling for rain. My kids are on their respective ponies and the lesson begins. My daughter is on our pony that spooks at every corner and my son is on the pony that likes to throw temper tantrums. As the lesson gets going the sky outside gets darker and the wind picks up. In a barn when it gets windy everything rattles, the doors, the windows, the roof and it is loud. This wind is making its own screeching sound and it is unnatural. My pony is doing this scared little side stepping and the trainer tells my daughter to get down off of him and to just walk him around. I was sitting with my two-year old and my oldest daughter’s friend who is just as scared as my pony and she announces that she wants to go home, RIGHT NOW! I tell her that she can’t go home because the kids are having a lesson.
She then starts to panic. My two-year old looks at this kid and rolls her eyes! She then opens her mouth and her little tiny raspy voice says “You’re fine, just sit there and be quiet!”
You know that moment when you hear your parenting come out of your baby’s mouth and instantly you realize that it sounds harsh? That’s what I was witnessing. I really have said that to my kids when they were afraid and now I am sort of hating myself and also why is this fucking kid having a panic attack? Cuz listen to the two-year old and sit there and be quiet because your panic is contagious, apparently, and it’s getting the horses all riled up. I look up and see my oldest jogging with her pony and my son was on the back of his dick of a pony and I decide that I have got to get this fucking drama queen out of the ring and to a place where she can stop freaking out. I bring my two year old and the ball of stress with me to the tack room and tell them to stay there. My two year old looks at the girl who is totally losing her shit and says “See we are safe and we can play with all of the saddles! Do you want to eat one of these horse treats?”
So here’s the thing, they were safe and yes I just left my two-year old with the girl I had no patience for, but I also wanted to be with my other two children, who were currently with live animals that weigh over 500 lbs each and that is dangerous. My two year old is capable and the other little girl seemed interested in eating horse treats…so snacks!!!!!
As I walk in and sit down to watch my kids in the ring the storm outside seemed to change. The wind started to howl and my pony starts rearing and cantering. My oldest daughter is trying to keep this all under control. The trainer is next to my son on that pony and she is holding the bridle. She is trying to calmly tell my daughter what to do. There is another parent there and she tells the other kids that are sitting and watching to follow her to the tack room, maybe she heard that there were snacks being served.
What happens next, happens with my super power of slowing things down so that I can truly enjoy the mayhem and chaos, my oldest was in front of her pony and the pony was spinning in circles. My son’s mount was dancing around and trying to break away from the trainer’s grip. There was a crack of thunder and a huge explosion of light all at the same time as the wind starts to really scream, like the most unnatural woman, outside. Peek-a-boo jumps over my daughter and her head goes rolling off of her shoulders and her lifeless body is being dragged behind. The other pony rears up out of fear (because apparently headless horsemen are terrifying to horses as well) and breaks away from the trainer and throws my son into the wall. My son slides down the wall and lands on his back in the ring. I am watching as both of my kids are in great peril and I see that the trainer went to my son so I go to my headless daughter. Which, if I am going to be honest, I don’t want to actually see my daughter without her head. I am terrified and yet calm because I have to get the pony to settle down. I get to Peek-a-boo and I get him settled down. I hesitantly look back at my lifeless daughter and to my elation she is not headless at all. Luckily it was just her helmet that came off, she was looking at me and she was a little dazed but alright. I then can look around to see the other goings on and I see one mom holding the pony my son was riding. Then as I scan the room I see the trainer pound on my son’s chest. My son jolts and then he lies on the ground. I can tell that the trainer is relieved and then she scans the room for me and smiles. She says “He’s ok, just had the wind knocked out of him!” I guess she had to knock it back in him because she just gave him a thunder punch (which is what my son refers to it as) straight to the chest.
The storm passes by and the kids get back on their ponies and finish the rest of the lesson. The trainer does this just to prevent the fear from being crippling. My kids have no problem getting back on. They finish their lessons like nothing even happened. My son is so proud of himself because his fall was really remarkable and it ended with a “Thunder Punch To the Heart” as he tells it. My oldest was just glad that her pony was ok. She talks to him reassuringly the rest of the lesson. My son is on his mount singing and head swaying. I now go and check on the other two kids. I get to the tack room and I find my two-year old talking to some of the other barn kids. They are playing with Breyer horses and having a good time.
“Where is the other kid that came with us?” I ask. My daughter and the kids all point to a pile of heavy horse blankets in the corner. There she was having a complete fucking meltdown. I walk over to her and I rub her shoulder and ask if she is ok?
“Can’t you just please take me to my mother? Why won’t you let me go home?” like I kidnapped her or something. (Which I never understand, because if I was child-free I am going to enjoy myself with naps and free time, I am not about to go out and find a child to have to take care of.) I am trying to collect my thoughts because it’s not her fault that she is having a nervous breakdown. I look at my two-year old who is completely unfazed by any of it.
I walk out to the lesson and my children are now off of their ponies and untacking. I walk over to my oldest and say “Your friend wants to go home right now.”
My oldest looks up with concern and says “Is she ok?” My child who was headless for a few moments back there, is showing compassion for the kid who literally just can’t deal with nature.
“No! She is really freaked out from the storm.” I answer.
My kid’s trainer says “Go ahead and take her home, your kids can stay with me.”
I say ok. My two-year old wants to stay at the barn too, “With the big kids!” she says and then glares at the crying child as if to make a point about her behavior. I sigh because I was thinking the same thing and I really should be a better example for my kids. The trainer is fine with all three kids staying and so I walk outside to bring this poor terrified child home. As we walk outside we see what made such a loud noise, a tree was hit by lightning and is now laying across the road. Looks like we are taking the long way back to her house, fucking awesome! The child accuses me of doing this on purpose. I vow that this may be the last time I invite this child anywhere. Even though I didn’t, I tried to bring her home before the lesson. I get her home and I explain to her mother what had happened. Her mother was very understanding and she thanked me for bringing her home. I didn’t tell her that I fed her horse treats, because technically I didn’t feed it to her I just didn’t stop it. My kids eat them, they’re fine.
I get back to the barn and my kids are there laughing and having a good time. They were also going to watch the linemen come and chop up the fallen tree. The trainer was enjoying her time with my kids. I take a look at my oldest daughter’s helmet and the reality sets in because there is a dent in her helmet. The trainer tells me that she will need a new one. I agree. Could you imagine if she didn’t have her helmet on? My heart beats faster and I pull my kids into me and give them all a great big hug. I kiss the tops of their heads. I am so proud of my tough little kids. They handled it all so well. These kids will make it, they are strong and compassionate. They ask about the friend and I say that she was happy to be home.
Moral of my story: Always check the weather, especially if you are going to bring someone else’s kid with you. That poor child was terrified the entire time she was there. She never came back, I wonder if she had a fear of horses after that? Another moral, always wear a helmet when handling horses and ponies. My daughter wasn’t even on her pony when this happened. She would have been seriously injured otherwise. And lastly my son spent the rest of his horseback riding career trying to recreate this terrifying fall. He never did and was always a bit disappointed. I’m shocked he didn’t become a stunt guy for movies and a lot thankful. Shout out to my kids because they are badass! My two-year old was so strong and compassionate (for the most part) during that whole thing. As for me I still have visions of my daughter’s helmet (which I thought was her head) rolling away in the barn. I am so glad it wasn’t. Again wear helmets folks.
Until next time:)