Monday, July 21, 2008

A Tribute and New Beginnings

There comes a day in a day in the life of a parent of a child who rides that is mixed with both dread and excitement. This day came for me last week.

I'll back track for a minute here, so you can get the full story.

My little girl Kaitlin started riding about two years ago. She'd been asking us for a horse and to ride since she was about three or four. My parents had horses and I grew up with them, so it was natural that Kaitlin would want to ride. We felt when she was five that would be a good time to start.

She started lessons for a few months at one barn, but it wasn't the right place for us. Lots of turn over, only twenty minutes by the time she was on the horse to ride and a lot of money. So, one day while visiting my parents who live a half an hour away, I took Kaitlin down to a ranch where I had done some back yard horse shows as a kid. I asked around about lessons and we were directed to Connie who teaches the little ones. We met Connie and started up lessons right away. Immediately my daughter's love for the animal grew because of Connie who is a warm, funny, kind woman with both horses and kids. Now, Connie isn't the hard core structure teacher. She allows kids to be kids and horses to be horses. My daughter would ride for an hour or more when taking a lesson with Connie. She is the kind of teacher who lets a child experience the love and passion for the horse to discover if this is for them or not. She also became my friend during the last couple of years. I've leaned on her shoulder, laughed with her, confided in her and theorized with her on various topics. I wrote an entire book while sitting at the picnic table out at the barn while Connie worked with Kaitlin (tight deadline) and Connie would snap (gently) at anyone trying to interrupt the creative flow by talking to me.

Obviously we got lucky finding this lady who loves kids and horses, but last week something happened. Kaitlin got a pony. Yep. We are now a two horse family. We have my Krissy, which everyone has nicknamed Princess at the barn and now we have Monty (or Mister Monty, as Kaitlin insist he be called). Mister Monty is a Gypsy Vanner Cob with excellent manners, jumps anything and everything, kind, smart and probably the cutest little guy I've ever seen. Kaitlin fell in love with him and the next thing I knew we were buying a pony. It was an exciting week. It was also a signal to me when Kaitlin said, "I want to get really good. I want to learn to jump and be a great rider," that we needed to move on from Connie. Not that Connie couldn't still work with Kaitlin and Mister Monty, but it was time to take that leap and recognize Kaitlin was ready for the next step. Her teacher had provided her with a foundation and a passion that will last a lifetime.

I dreaded talking to Connie because as mentioned she is now a friend of the family and we think a great deal of her, but I hate the idea of hurting anyone's feelings and since this was the first time I'd ever had to do this, I wasn't sure how it would go over. I should have known that Connie would be as she always is, sweet, understanding, encouraging and professional. She knew the time was right and explained to me that usually when a child she teaches gets a horse that it is time to move up. I can't tell you how relieved and happy I was and how grateful I am to have had Connie be the foundation for Kaitlin. I still remember my first instructor and all that he taught me.

Now Kaitlin and Mister Monty have a new teacher; Gillian. Gillian is also good natured, kind and caring. She has a ton of experience and is full of knowledge about the animals. I knew we had made the right choice when Kaitlin came home with Gillian from picking up Mister Monty. They had made up a song about the pony.

It's never easy to move to the next level but having people in your life encouraging you helps you find the self confidence to rise to the occasion. Our family is grateful we have had Connie to help our daughter do exactly this.


1 comment:

Mary Paine said...

Congratulations to Kaitlin on her new pony! I'm sure this will be a time in her life she'll remember forever. Connie sounds wonderful and so does Gillian. It's to Connie's credit and speaks to her love of horse and rider that she wants Kaitlin to move on to a trainer specializing in the next level. Here's to many happy years of riding for Kaitlin!

All the best,