The front: (Elizabeth, who was holding it up said: "Do you like how my nails match the quilt?" Silly girl!)
Friday evening from 5pm I was at the mercy of the Harvest Retreat for the teens. Okay, I signed up as a chaperon, but it was FUN! We did all manner of activities including a tractor driving contest, knife throwing, obstacle course, pumpkin bowling, paintball, an Iron Man contest (farm style), a night hike, and trail riding. There were other things too, but my brain is too tired to remember them. My favorite activity was the night hike. It was something I had never done before. Well, I've hiked before, but not at night. Those of you who are gasping and thinking that pigs do fly because I didn't say the horse back riding was my favorite, I'll explain why.
I've ridden before, a lot, in my teen years. Took lessons, did trail rides, and love every moment of it, from wonderful little jumps to falling off... it was all fine with me. However, this time around I had two things that distracted me from totally enjoying the experience. Actually three.
One, it was almost 23 or 24 years ago when I was last on a horse. That is A LOT more years than the number of years these kids have even been alive, for crying out loud. Was I nervous? You betchya. However, I can overcome my own nerves. The problem was that I had two daughters who have never ridden a horse by themselves also on the trail (there was supervision etc, but still!) and that is a whole different type of nerves, that I hadn't anticipated at all. I knew I'd be a little anxious for myself, and thought I could handle those motherly instinct type nerves, but oh boy, was I wrong! Especially when Elizabeth's horse decided he wanted to go into the nice looking field and would not follow her command. She yanked on the reins, and that sucker gave her a buck! Remember: Elizabeth has never really ridden a horse on her own before. She did ride in the corral ring the previous night, but the horse was being lead by someone else.
I was so proud of her. Not only did she keep her seat, but she kept her cool. Thankfully it wasn't a runaway situation. The horse "Liberty" (should have been named StubbornRebelliousSnorter) found a nice patch of grass, promptly started eating. By then, one of the more experienced riders had gotten over to her, and they switched horses. "King", who is a much older, and sedate type, seemed to give her no problems whatsoever the rest of the ride. Well, until she got off and stepped on her foot, but it wasn't malicious. He was grazing, shifted his weight, and caught the side of her sneaker. She wasn't injured at all, and her breathing only took an hour or two to recover from the episode.
Esther's horse was fine, thankfully, but Esther is rather high strung and nervous anyway, and I was catching it from her. She had trouble getting the horse to stop, but I found out why. When she pulled back on the reigns she was barely pulling. My soft-hearted girl was afraid to hurt the horse's mouth. Now, don't go rolling your eyes, she didn't know any better!
I was having my own issues with my horse, Sundancer. Now I know and remember about proper posture, and getting to know the horse a little (I spent some time petting him, talking to him, letting him get to know me a bit, etc while we were waiting to go) and keeping your heels down in the stirrups, etc. I even managed to haul myself on that poor horse on the first try (okay, it wasn't very pretty, but I got up there!). I know the horse knows if the rider is nervous or confident, and I know they will try to exploit that in anyway they can.
I was told Sundancer was mellow. So, I was expecting to hop on, have nice loose reigns, and enjoy the ride without a care. Uh huh. In other words, I was delusional. What really happened was I hopped on, and I swear I heard that horse give some sort of evil chuckle. He stood still long enough for me to be lulled into a false sense of security, and then started to want to eat. Well, I yanked on the reigns. He put his head back up. Then he would inch forward. I pulled on the reigns, and said "Whoa boy,". He whoa'd, and then moved backwards. I rolled my eyes. This sort of thing went on, as it takes some time to get 7 or 8 riders all set to go. I noticed as soon as we started out that he was much happier. Personally, part of me keeps saying that it was the first ride of the day, so he was restless and ready to go. Lots of energy to be burned. The other part says , "don't believe it for a moment. He was testing you, trying to find out who's the boss." I think both sides of me were correct.
So, we started out on the trail. A nice, wide, easy trail. And personally, it was going well enough, but I had those pesky nerves going on, and this was no laid back, loose rein ride. I kept having to rein Sundancer in more and more. When you are trail riding you never go before the leader. Very poor riding etiquette, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I was worrying about the girls, and wondering if it was a huge mistake, when another rider went by us (the path was plenty big enough for double laned walking) and her horse, Shadow, for no good reason kicked Sundancer! I think I yelled out "Hey!" and the rider was scolding the horse too. My initial reaction was to be on high alert lest Sundancer retaliated, but he took it like a champ. Just after that episode, was Elizabeth's little drama. By then I had had enough. This ride was getting on my nerves, and I was ready to be done. After Elizabeth switch horses though, the leader convinced us to stick it out. Things did go smoother after that for the most part, though Esther was super nervous still.
I said there were three things that marred this experience. The third is simple: After all of that, it ended for me too soon. Seriously. Things started to calm down, and though I had to keep Sundancer on tight reins, it was a pleasant ride. I'm already itching to go again. I forgot how addicting riding is!
Oh, as a epilogue of sorts, I asked the girls if they would do it again, and Esther gave a somewhat hesitant yes, but with warmer footwear on (her toes got pretty cold) and Elizabeth answered right away "Yes, as long as I'm not on Liberty, and can ride King. Also, I found out that Sundancer is USUALLY the leader on trail rides, which is why he was literally chomping at the bit the whole time. Oiy vey.
All in all, it was a wonderful time, the whole retreat. The kids got to try a lot of new things, and they were already saying "I can't wait for next year's retreat" on the way home.
And now for the NaNoWriMo update: I'm up to over 7600 words! I hope to get a little more in tonight after the kids are in bed, then tomorrow I will have to do double duty again to stay caught up, as I doubt I will get to it Tuesday. We are going to visit some friends of ours for the day, which we have been looking forward to, and voting.
That reminds me... MAKE SURE YOU VOTE ON THE 6TH!!!!!!!!
(nice and subtle, eh?)
Have a blessed day!