Shout It Out: My Daughter’s Riding Instructor (aka Her Guardian Angel)

As I have written before, I think that riding instructors are on a fast track to Sainthood (see “Ode to the Riding Instructor). Yesterday morning, my daughter’s instructor made a huge leap forward in her journey. Originally, I was going to name this post “I Just About Puked!”, and while not the prettiest title, it would have been a very appropriate one; a title other moms out there could probably relate to.

My daughter has been riding in the local Academy shows for a few years now and during the winter tournaments graduated to the Walk/Trot/Canter classes. Because of her late birthday she competed in the 10 and under classes and, unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you look at it…) she was always the only kid in her class. She liked getting those blue ribbons, but really would have liked to have at least one other horse with her…so she thought.

I have to admit, I am probably the absolute worst mom when it comes to my kids showing. Maybe it is because I also ride and know what CAN happen; I get so nervous that I can hardly sit still and watch. My heart races, and my palms sweat. It is so bad that I have to leave the warm up area because my nervousness starts to rub off on my daughter. I usually just “hand her over” to another mom and go sit in the stands. (I know, I am pathetic!) It isn’t that I want my kid to win….I just want her to come out without any dirt on her face from falling off. I guess it is just a feeling of my not being in a position to protect her.

This summer she has moved up to a division with older kids and yesterday, she had her first Walk/Trot/Canter class with more than just her horse showing in the arena. It was the typical show morning; I stayed with her until she mounted and then took my position in the coliseum stands. When her class was called, I got that same “knot in my stomach” feeling, but calmly talked myself out of it. I knew she was riding her favorite horse, a season retired show horse that had been her mount all winter. As they hit the ring, however, I instantly knew something was not quite right. My daughter had that “deer in the headlights” look on her face and her lesson horse started trucking around the ring at a road trot almost suitable for a Roadster Under Saddle Class (at least in my “Mom’s opinion”!). Everybody from our lesson barn recognized this and began to call out “Slow him down”, “Easy” and “Tell Him Whoa”. However, my daughter, who apparently had started to mildly panic in the warm up ring when the announcer said there were 6 in the class, didn’t hear any of this help and just held on tighter and tighter. In response, her horse just went faster and faster.

The riding instructor, who was at the gate, tried to talk her through her problem the best she could and eventually the “walk” was called. Everything seemed under control but then the announcer said “Canter your horses.” They cantered, all right, although “hand gallop” would probably be a more appropriate term. Needless to say,the judge was well aware of the situation and the canter time was cut short. My daughter’s instructor, who had been standing with the gate already open in case of an emergency, quickly entered the ring, telling the judge that she needed a minute to talk with her rider. The judge was very understanding and told her to take her time.

After having a little “pow wow” with my daughter (I think “You have to breath” was repeated several times) and giving the old horse a minute to collect his thoughts, the instructor calmly walked my daughter on her horse back towards the gate. Relieved (yet sad since I knew my daughter would be upset with herself), I thought that they were leaving the ring. However, the instructor, in her infinite wisdom, had other ideas. Slowly, talking with my daughter the whole time, she released the horse and the two were back walking on the rail again (Once again, that yucky feeling was back in my stomach).

When the “reverse and trot” was called, things were a little more under control, although still a little fast. My daughter was actually steering and was able to bring her horse down to the walk at the appropriate time. At the canter, things were much steadier, slower and I even think my daughter cracked a smile at one point. When I heard the instructor yell, “That’s much better” and “You’re doing great” I think my heart actually climbed out of my stomach and back to my chest.

Most people, myself included, would probably have not been able to keep my daughter in the class. It was just that sort of situation; it wasn’t dangerous to other riders but we all knew that my daughter was scared. We also all knew that she had the ability to ride this horse and could do it if she calmed down. When I discussed it later with the instructor, she told me that she REALLY, REALLY wanted to pull her out, but knew that if she did, my daughter would lose a level of confidence that she had gained over the winter. The instructor (and I) knew the horse wouldn’t do anything to hurt his rider, so she made the hard decision to bite her lip, and let them continue (and she said it was a very HARD decision).

This all might sound crazy, but let me tell you, that last place ribbon was the best ribbon my daughter has ever won. She was so proud of herself and carried it around with her most of the day. She was on top of the world.

So once again, I have to hand it to the Riding Instructor…with Nerves (and Stomach) of Steel, she makes the tough decisions…climbing ever closer to that Sainthood Status. Thank you, once again!

(writer’s note: I have to admit that most of this story was told to me by other bystanders…I had my head down and eyes closed until I heard “That’s Much Better” called out by the instructor!!–yes, I’m PATHETIC!!)

4 Responses to Shout It Out: My Daughter’s Riding Instructor (aka Her Guardian Angel)

  1. kad says:

    “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.”
    Once again I am reminded why I do what I do and truly love it. As I stood at the head of that horse and your daughter in the line up I knew that for the rest of her life(and mine) she could (we could) have a little more confidence in ourselves and our abilities. Just another one of those life’s lessons taught to us through our passion for horses that make us a better person. I can only hope that someday she too can teach someone else that same lesson because of me.

  2. jcmerc says:

    Talk about pathetic, I’m reading this with tears in my eyes!! I too have survived those moments at the in gate – not breathing.

    The most memorable was with Tristanne Weber-Childress (bless her) who offered my then 14 yr old daughter the opportunity of a lifetime – ride Hillock Top Secret in the Pro-Am class at SSMHS in 2002! Brooke had ridden Secret at home many times and it was a plus she liked to go fast. The ring at home was much smaller than the ring at Southern States so he couldn’t gain that much momentum. Well, Saturday night, Championships, everyone watching, I am in the warm up with Tristanne, Secret,and Brooke — everything is FINE (it appears to me)! Bill calls the class, Tristanne goes in. Brooke and I wait for the reverse direction at the in-gate. The pause is called, Tristanne throws my little girl up, adjusts stirrups and they are off.
    Bill Whitley motions to close the gate. Tristanne closes it, crosses her arms on the gate, puts her head down and doesn’t move for a moment… hmmmm curious!
    It all of a sudden dawns on me, “Tris, are you praying?”… “YES!”
    HOLY SMOKES! Now I’m doing the nervous giggle thing, pondering the idea of leaping the wall and stopping the class. I decide against it and just watch… this kid is having the time of her life, her smile bigger than her face and Secret is showing himself, tail flowing like a windsock behind him! They call for the line up, headers in. Bill Whitley walks down the line and whispers to my daughter (I loved watching you ride!) Yeah, ha, you loved that you didn’t have to pick her up off the ground :-) — so did I.
    She got dead last but it was the best ride. Tristanne, we miss you terribly! Your legacy lives on in Brooke who is now 21 and working for Tara this summer!!
    Black Eye Beth, thanks for inspiring me to write this. I’ve taken over the YOY events at SSMHS in Tristanne’s memory.

    J Mercier

  3. Black Eye Beth says:

    What I great story. Thanks so much for sharing. I knew there were others out there like me!!

  4. KayITM says:

    That was a good story. When I first started to show my horse my mom would get nervous that he would do something stupid at the canter. Now (about 4 years later) when I enter the ring my mom isn’t nervous at all she is actually telling me from the rail to go a bit faster, or in the road hack classes to move on and get off the rail and show off. She has become more confident in how my horse behaves. You will become less nervous with the more shows your daughter will be competing in. Don’t Worry!

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