I took my daughter for her first canter the other day. It was perfect! That was my Christmas miracle, the fact that there are perfect ponies, ponies that can give a child their first canter, ponies that will slow down if the rider is losing their balance, ponies that are simply perfect for the job they do.
We ask horses and ponies to do a range of different jobs. From riding school ponies, to racehorses, from para-dressage horses to showjumpers. They are endlessly obliging to our strange whims and desires. They are patient and tolerant, and when we decide that they should doing one thing and start doing another, they simply adapt.
It is simply astonishing when you think about it that they put up with us! They are far stronger than us, they could simply decide not to co-operate, but they don’t.
The pony that took my daughter for a canter, was incredible. The first time it simply went for a few strides. By the fifth canter, when the pony was more confident in the little rider, it went off happily and carried on cantering along the tracks.
Ponies like that are priceless, giving people good experiences builds confidence. Teaching children to ride by putting them on naughty ponies doesn’t help anyone. The children learn that ponies can be dangerous, the pony learns that it is in charge. Learning through positive experiences creates a better result, it creates harmony, and enjoyment. Lots of my childhood riding experiences were based around fear. Children don’t learn when they are scared, they learn when they are happy.
My Christmas miracle is a little pony called Dolly, and watching my daughter on that wonderful first canter. That was better than any fancily wrapped gift sat under the tree.
I am sure that you all feel, like I do, that we are stuck in some very bad movie. And it is really hard to think, or concentrate, or try and work out what to do. But the sun still rises, horses still want their breakfast, we still go out and listen to the birds. Some parts of life still trundle onwards.
Above all it is vital that we stay safe, and we do our utmost to continue to care for our horses. But these are unprecedented times, adaptability and flexibility are key to managing this period of time.
Make contingency plans. Are your horses at home? Are they at a livery yard? If they are at a livery, what are you going to if you have to self-isolate? Ask for help. Remember people want to help. In times of crisis people feel better if they can help others. Offer to help others. If you are going to yard anyway can do muck out for someone else? Can you turn out for someone who has very bad asthma and has been told to stay at home?
If you can get to your horse, what are you going to do? If you usually would be preparing for the competition season, why not find another aim? There are lots of virtual shows popping up which look like great fun! Or why not plan some lovely hacks? Explore an area you wouldn’t usually go to? Trainers are still teaching, either in person, or virtually. So if there is something you want to master, that elusive shoulders-in for example, why not give yourself that as a goal?
Setting ourselves challenges and goals gives us motivation and helps us to deal with periods of uncertainty. So even if they were not the goals you wanted to work towards, a sense of purpose is still useful. Or pick something entirely different. Maybe you normal do showing, well not try and teach your horse to bow? Think outside the box, there are endless things we can do with our horses even if we can’t ride them, or compete them. To be honest just hugging them is great!