For the past 10 summers, there has been a special bond between our horses and the grandkids of our neighbor business, Pine Grove Cabins. The oldest, Sierra, was the first to convince Ranger that treats were OK. We had been trying everything we could think of to show him that apples, carrots, grain, anything, was a “treat”. It took the patience and adoration of a tow-headed two-yr-old girl to win him over. She toddled down the road every day for two weeks (with grandma in tow) and a handful of tiny baby carrots. Patiently she would stand at the wooden buck fence with her little arm held out and a carrot in her fingers (not flat on the palm). We didn’t worry about her because at that time Ranger would not go near anyone, much less take a treat from their hand. Then one morning, we get a call from a wrangler next door, “Get over here quick…your horse!” Now what?! We race across the road. Ranger had slowly sneaked forward and very carefully, without even touching her fingers, lifted the tiny piece of carrot from her. The look on both their faces was priceless. That was the beginning of the relationship.
Now, 10 years later (plus the addition of 3 siblings), part of our summer ritual is “riding lessons” when they come to visit their grandparents. Sierra was the first to ride Jesse bareback. Sierra (then 5) was out walking with her grandmother one day when I was working Jesse (2 yr old) loose in the livery yard. Jesse saw Sierra coming up the road and broke away from me, racing down to Sierra. She walked up to Sierra, nuzzled her and slowly followed her back. Without thinking, I picked up Sierra and set her on Jesse’s back. What a twosome they have been since.
Well, this last week was visitation week for the kids. The oldest three are all ardent horse lovers and have managed to beg mom and dad into summer horse camps with the YMCA back home. They have learned a lot for such little folk and mom is always with them with gentle reminders.
We tacked up the two grays and I let each girl try riding alone in our parking area. They had indeed learned their cues, and although their tiny legs barely reached over the sides of my horses, they had “intent” and the horses knew it. I was extremely surprised that Jesse, especially, would listen to their cues. She is so accustomed to following me when carrying a child, she wouldn’t leave my side. This day, she must have sensed the difference. The girls did so well, we walked down the road to their cabins and they got to spend the next hour “racing” all over the meadows and driveways. I can’t say how proud I was of my horses that day! They went wherever the girls directed them, mostly in different directions. What a sight to see Jesse in her running-walk moving across a flower strewn meadow with Sierra laughing on her back, blond hair streaming out behind her. Then she breaks into a lope. I don’t know whether to panic or not. We aren’t in an arena or enclosed area; this is wide open spaces and Jesse could just decide to take off for home when they get to the far end of the field, but she listened to Sierra and made a nice cutting turn and came right back. They made several runs, one horse and rider pair in the field, the other in the driveways, then traded horses.
Washoe, my other gray, is the grass monster, but the girls were intent on not letting him eat. After I showed them how to keep his head out of the grass, they guided him all over the driveways, and even managed a trot or two. Each horse stood patiently while one girl would climb off one side and another would climb on from the other – no help, please! The third would watch and wait until her turn. The girls and horses both did a super job that day – the relationship has expanded. It was a great afternoon experience and I couldn’t have been prouder of my horses!