Friday, March 1, 2013

Naomi's First Riding Lesson

Naomi was dressed in her favorite horse shirt yesterday as we entered the stable. It didn't matter much that it was under a sweatshirt and a winter coat, as long as it was on. Her face was lit with excitement, and a little apprehension, as she followed her teacher, Miss Chris, and the volunteer who was working with her, Mr. Peavy, back to the stalls. Naomi was introduced to Shanna, a gentle, dark brown quarter-horse, who stood quietly as Naomi learned to brush and tack her.

Mr. Peavy's grandson, who has cerebral palsy, had ridden Shanna for many years. Mr. Peavy patiently allowed Naomi to carry the blanket and the saddle. He showed her how to put them on and talked to her about horse safety. Naomi quietly took it all in and did her best to do as Mr. Peavy asked.

When Shanna was saddled, Naomi helped to lead her into the arena and line her up. Her class is supposed to have four students, but the two other girls didn't show up. The other boy in her class was older and quite good already with his horse so the teacher spent most of her time catching Naomi up with what the others had learned in the first four classes that Naomi had missed.

Mr. Peavy held onto a lead rope and walked beside Naomi and Shanna the entire lesson. Miss Chris started with walking on the other side of Naomi, but soon felt comfortable leaving her side. It was a lot for an eight-year-old to take in in one night: mounting, balancing, starting, stopping, turning, weaving, reversing, and dismounting; but Naomi focused the entire 40 minutes she was on horseback and worked hard to control Shanna.

Both Miss Chris and Mr. Peavy were impressed with how well Naomi did. Mr. Peavy told me that he'd never totally held back and let a rider control the horse herself on their first ride. "It was all her!" he assured me, "I just walked beside her." It may not be too many lessons before they can take the lead rope off and allow Naomi to work with Shanna herself.

Naomi was quietly pleased on the way home--I think it was so much to take in. She showed more excitement when her sisters asked her about the lesson before bed. And this morning she is all beaming and chattery, talking about how much fun it was and how she can't wait for next Thursday to come. "Now it will be even harder to wait for next Thursday," she giggled, "because I know how much I like it."

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