You may recall I blogged awhile back about my daughter having to deal with the reality of the horse she loved needing to retire. I received such wonderful, heartfelt good wishes and advice from Equestrian Ink’s readers I want to thank you again and hope you can give me some further advice.
My daughter did indeed adjust to riding a new horse, who she now also loves, but last week her trainer decided she has advanced to the point she is ready for a new challenge. The new challenge comes in the form of Tomeo, a young horse who arrived at the barn not too long ago. He’s lovely to look at, a palomino, and seems to have a positive, fun-loving nature, but he’s more horse than she’s used to riding.
She’s still very young. She’ll be seven soon, and she’s at the walk, trot, ground poles & half seat stage. The trainer had Tomeo all tacked up and ready for her when she got to the barn last week, so I didn’t have time to prepare her for the change. She cast a few loving (and worried) glances at the horse she’d been riding and falling in love with, an earnest, sweet blood bay about 14 1/2 hands, I think.
Still, she mounted Tomeo, who seems closer to 15 hands, and listened attentively as the trainer told her about him. I was holding my breath as she started off, with a barn staff member walking next to her. I sat in a chair near the ring with my two year old twins in their dual stroller next to me, keeping my eyes glued to my daughter every moment except when I was retrieving fallen toys or sippy cups.
Three different parents stopped by to say hello and mentioned how tiny she looked on Tomeo. Having had the same thought, I have to admit these comments did nothing positive for my blood pressure.
She was doing pretty well, she even backed him, which was no small accomplishment. The defining moment came when they started to trot. Tomeo has a teeth-jarring trot and he’s a lot faster than she’s used to. She stopped and said she was too frightened to trot him again. This was the first time I had ever heard her say she was frightened of anything to do with horses.
She wouldn’t trot him again, but she did her other exercises. She walked through ground poles in her half seat and with someone leading him she balanced with arms out to the side and on top of her head.
I spoke with the trainer after the lesson who told me my daughter really was ready for this, but if she was truly frightened we could switch her back to her previous mount. Relieved, I shared this with my daughter and her answer surprised me. She said she wanted to try Tomeo again. When I pressed a bit on why she wanted to ride him again if she was frightened to trot him she said “Because I want to do better next time.”
I’m proud of her, but I’m wondering if maybe she isn’t a little too young to be testing herself against something that frightens her. I don’t want to discourage her, but I want her to enjoy and love horses, not feel that she needs to succeed at all costs. She’s a determined little thing and already showing signs of being a bit of a perfectionist. (I’d like to say she gets it from her father but, ahem, I’d be lying.)
What do you all think? I want her to feel confident, happy and without fear, but I’m not sure of the best path to get us there.