One thing I really love about my daughter riding and loving horses are the opportunities to teach her things like responsibility, compassion, empathy and hard work.
But I also get to teach her about good sportsmanship and understanding. She had an excellent time at the show this past weekend and really enjoys getting out there and putting her best boot forward. Yes, she did get frustrated with Trinity because she couldn't get her to trot. But she didn't blame Trinity for not wanting to trot, instead, she praised her for being good in all other aspects, asked her if she was hot and tired and wanted a bath and said she wished she had bigger, stronger legs. She does have pretty spindly little kid legs!
I've witnessed far too many kids (and adults!) quickly blame their horse for a bad ride when in reality, the horse is just being a horse. It's easier to blame something else for a mistake or a bad ride than to look inward and admit you did something wrong or not quite right. What is that quote? "There are no bad horses, only bad riders." That's something I absolutely believe to be true 99.9% of the time. Sometimes, there are bad horses, but usually because people somewhere down the line made them that way.
Anyway, back to the show. There is a girl about Kayleigh's age who rides at the barn. The kid has her own horse and rides regularly and is a pretty decent rider. But the girl has zero sportsmanship and plays the blame game with her horse all the time. The horse is a good plodder who safely packs her around. He tries to do what she asks but if he doesn't respond exactly how she thinks he should, he gets his mouth jerked on repeatedly or whipped and kicked and yelled at. Any other horse would dump her butt in the dirt (and it would be rightly deserved!) but he takes it and keeps going.
In one of her classes she did not place. We watched the class and she was being rough-handed and mean to him the entire class because he kept picking up the wrong lead. As soon as the placings were called and all riders left the arena, she got off him, jerked on his mouth, spanked him with her crop, flung her helmet across the barn aisle, flung her riding jacket onto the ground and stomped around saying what a stupid horse he was.
Kayleigh witnessed the entire thing and was frankly, quite shocked. I was shocked too, but even more so when the girl's mother did NOTHING to rein in and admonish her out-of-control, horrible child for being so awful. She just ignored her as she threw her little fit because she didn't place in the class.
Kayleigh asked me why she was acting like that when it wasn't the horse's fault and the ribbon really didn't matter. "Why is she being so mean to him?" she asked. I didn't have an answer, but my heart warmed when I realized that yes, I've been doing something right with this kid! We talked about the girl's unsportsmanlike behavior and why blaming the horse and being a brat about a ribbon is the absolute wrong thing to do. We talked about learning from the class and working on improving instead of having an uncalled for, childish fit.
She gets it. Thank goodness, she gets it. Because it's not about the ribbons, it's about the horses, learning and having fun. The ribbons are nice, but they aren't the be all, end all of riding.
Sure, Chief frustrates her sometimes, but I've never, ever seen her lose her temper with him. He's dumped her a couple of times (she has learned that he responds very well to just a light squeeze...a kick sends him flying forward and she falls off!) and each time, instead of getting mad at him, she apologizes to him, makes sure he's okay, and climbs back on. The two times he spooked hard and dumped her she didn't get mad, she caught him, comforted him, climbed back on and left it behind her as a lesson learned.
We are going to try to get Chief to the next show for her to ride. I don't know that's he's ever shown before so I don't really know how he'll respond to being in an arena full of other horses, but I know he will trot when she asks and she has been absolutely dying to show off the love of her life to all her riding friends. She's already braiding his mane and has even poked chicken and turkey feathers into his mane...he looks like a real Indian warhorse when he's all spiffed up in his feathers!
Now we just need to come up with a nifty show name for the old man! I'm eager to hear what she comes up with.