Bon Voyage

Matthieu looked a little green and his eyes were half closed. Usually a leaping ball of non-stop motion, today he sat on the bleachers, elbows on his knees. Tomorrow is the last day of school. Most of the kids are wiped out. But I’m glad his mother brought him anyways because next week his family leaves for France for the summer.
I got him a gatorade out of my private supply of refreshments. This perked him up enough to want to get on the horse, which he did by climbing to the top rail of the arena and leaping on from a distance. His energy, however, did not last long. Every time I turned around he’d be in a different pose on a motionless horse (though which horse it was did vary); his feet would be tucked under, knees pointing down, facing backwards, elbows on Cowgirl’s butt;or; he’d be in a squat on Stoney’s saddle; or; he’d be sitting sidesaddle on Cowgirl (looking nonchalant). I think he was taxing is creativity to the max in terms of figuring out new ways to lounge on a horse. He finally settled on draping himself over Stoney’s hind end. I think Matthieu would have fallen asleep there if he’d been given enough time.
We made our usual parade home (Helen on Chavali, Matt on Cowgirl and Sammy on Stoney). On the way, Helen said that Matt hadn’t wanted to come. I told him I was glad he has anyways because I really enjoyed their company and would miss them over the summer. At this, Helen said, abruptly, that they wouldn’t be riding at all next year. (Helen wants to play soccer and tennis.) I said in that case I was doubly glad they had come for one last ride, but even though I loved having them as students, it was more important to me that they be happy and that they were more than welcome to come and play at the barn anytime (which I am sure they will do).
When we arrived at Quail, Matt and Helen made noises about wanting to leave, but within thirty seconds Helen had picked up the broom (which she can never resist) and Matthieu started squirting water at a delighted Dante. While Helen went about her cleaning and Matthieu continued his squirting, Katie and I took care of all the tack and medicating and grooming that needed attending to, not the least of which being the application of fly spray. I hadn’t intended to spray Cowgirl, because she hates any kind of spray bottle, but I’d forgotten to take her tack off and had been spraying Chavali just prior to going to untack Cowgirl. Cowgirl wouldn’t let me get within ten feet. The spray bottle had been left on the ledge, half a paddock away, but she didn’t believe it and would not let me take the tack off. Seeing my predicament, Katie said, “Why don’t you have Matt take the saddle off?” This was a very good idea. Seven year-old boys are not known for wielding spray bottles at ponies and Cowgirl did indeed stand still for Matthieu.
Katie then said, “I wonder if he could maybe get some fly spray on her.” Matt couldn’t resist. But unlike most kids, he’d figured out he had to be clever about it. Think: Pink Panther. Matthieu did feints and cutbacks and whistling while looking away, but actually sneaking up on Cowgirl with the spray bottle. He was dead earnest about in his efforts and did manage to get three out of four legs doused with Cedarcide. He also managed to provide some side splitting entertainment for Katie and I.
Then it was time to leave and at this point Matthieu made a most unusual request. He asked if he could ride Chavali home, bareback. (Matt and Helen live half way between Quail Lane and Campo Vista, where Chavali lives, so we were walking Chavali home as well as the two of them.)
After a momentary pause and a deep, slow breath, I said, “Ohh Kaayay.” Chavali is slippery, wiggly as a worm and round in the belly. There’s a lot of horses I’ll ride bareback, but she’s not one of them. But Matt did it. I held tight to the lead rope, kept her head down and put my senses on full alert as we traversed the three or four blocks to Matt’s house. I asked him several times if he wanted to get off, but he’d picked a task; set a goal; and he had no intention of giving up. He wasn’t just doing it to do it. He had genuinely picked the task as the one feat of horsemanship he wanted to tackle at that moment.
When we got to his house (we ride right up to the front door), I chatted with his mother for a bit and mentioned how Helen had told me she’d be playing soccer and tennis next year, not horses. Beatrice laughed because Helen had not told her that she was going to take up tennis. Matthieu, who had been standing next to us, said, “Mom, I’m taking soccer?” “Yes, in the fall.” Matt: “And Rugby?” “Yes, that’s in winter”. Matt: “But nothing in spring?” “Yes, Mattheiu, nothing in spring.” Matt: “I will do horses in the spring.” Then, turning to me: “See you in the spring!”
I will definitely be looking forward to that.

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