“If Sophie rides Chavali and Kayla rides Cowgirl, who is going to ride Velvet?” Kate is standing in the paddock at Quail holding CG for Jaya who is grooming CG. Kayla, who has just arrived, overheard Kate’s comment. “I’m not going to ride Velvet because I don’t like being in the lead.” Jaya doesn’t say anything because Jaya doesn’t say anything. Well, OK, sometimes she does say something, but not very often. I say,”Well one things for sure, we aren’t taking Dancer out.” Kate says,”because he can’t be ridden.” I said, “No, he can be ridden.” Dancer got X-rays two days ago. The coffin bones in his rear hooves are rotated backwards. The farrier, who is scheduled to come tomorrow, is supposed to radically trim the toes, which will allow the coffin bone to sit at the correct angle. Technically, today, he can still be ridden. Kate puts her hands on her hips and stamps. “No! Dancer is not going to be ridden! He needs to rest and get better!” Clearly the matter was no longer up for discussion, not that we could have discussed more if we wanted to because at that moment Arya and Sophie showed up and with gleeful squeals threw themselves headlong at Kate. Sophie cried, “Group hug! Group hug!” Kayla and Jaya happily piled on.
The group hug proceeded to take several different forms, most of which included someone being on someone else’s back. As I was standing in the driveway thinking, “Oh my. How am I ever going to get them focused on riding?” It occurred to me that Arya’s mom was still there and “wouldn’t it be nice for you all to get a ride over the Campo rather than walk, although someone is going to have to stay with me and tack up CG.” Kayla scrunched up her nose, pursed her lips and glared at me,which means,”How could you even consider someone other than me to ride CG?!” While Arya, Jaya and Sophie are glared at me and clung to Kate, which meant, “Don’t you dare separate us from Kate!” And so it was.
By the time Kayla, Cowgirl and I arrived at Campo, Kate and the munchkins had Chavali, Velvet and Jackson out. Sophie was energetically grooming Chavali. Arya was holding a bridle in one hand and and tugging at Jackson’s cross tie with the other saying,”Lower your head!” I suggested this may not be the best approach. She was in the mood to listen, followed my instructions and within minutes had successfully bridled the horse, no small feat for a seven year-old.
Jaya was standing by Velvet doing nothing. “Jaya are you OK?” I had her walk over to me. She said, in a very quiet voice, that she was tired. “Well, then, you should like down.” Kate got a horse blanket out. Kayla picked out the most padded saddle pad for a pillow and we had Jaya lie down. “I’m tired too!” , said Sophie and she dramatically yawned and stretched. “So am I!”, said Arya. Both girls joined Jaya on the blanket, though Arya didn’t actually lie down. She squatted for a bit, then bounded around and over the other girls. Jaya wasn’t getting much rest, but she also didn’t actually seem that tired. I looked at Kate and said, “Does Jaya know?”
Jackson will be leaving. It’s hard to find a good home for a horse. Jackson’s owner didn’t seem to have the persistence or the motivation necessary and she’d been dragging her feet saying his former owner, the woman who bred him, had wanted to be informed should he be up for sale, but she’d been impossible to get a hold of. Although the girls had been informed he was up for sale, I didn’t expect him to leave anytime soon.
On Monday I got a text from Emma, his owner. “His old owner wants him back!” Good news indeed, but sad news also. I texted Emma that he was scheduled for horse camping in the end of July. It would create enormous problems for me if her were to leave before then. I sent a couple more texts about how sad the girls were that he was up for sale and how much they loved him. I also called and left a message asking if we could discuss his departure out of consideration for the tender hearts that loved him. No response.
On Tuesday I got a text from Emma’s mother, Fiona. “What’s this about Jackson being in a summer camp? I’m making arrangements for Jackson’s transport (to Tennessee). His old owner is eager to have him back as soon as possible. I’m seeing if I can move him next week.” When explained, Fiona understood about horse camping and agreed to let him stay through July. It would have been better for the girls to have had him stay through the summer.
Unlike the other horses, Jackson never became anyone’s favorite horse. Almost all the riders become passionate about one horse over the rest. He also wasn’t fast enough and fun enough to be interesting to the skilled riders, leaving him primarily the tasking of schlepping beginners. No horse should have that fate indefinitely. He was put up for sale at my suggestion. Of course, now that leaving was on the horizon, the girls all began to pour attention and affection on him, the skilled ones taking him out for rides. At the same time, Kate, who weighs in at 90lb, figured out that she could ride double on Jackson with a bareback pad with riders like Jaya, 40lb, and Arya, 34lb. Jaya in particular benefitted from this arrangement. Riding double with a skilled rider is the fastest way to learn how to ride. Jaya’s riding ability improved exponentially. It was with a sinking heart that I watched, just weeks before, Jackson become Jaya’s most beloved horse.
Now we had to tell her. But Kate, ever ready to save the day, said, “Remember the beach trip?” I had forgotten. Kate has been an enormous help this summer. Actually, more than enormous. It’s not too far fetched to say that she is single handedly saving kids love horses. Because of the less than ideal riding environment we have to work with, it’s very tricky and exhausting to work with a new rider under the age of ten. I decided to focus on starting riders eleven and up. Problem is, a kid who loves horses, but who’s parents wait until they are eleven or twelve to get them lessons is a kid who’s parents don’t support horses. When the parents don’t support or value horses, it makes my life very difficult and has come near to putting an end to KLH. Also, KLH depends on a group of well trained older riders who can aid and assist with the next generation. I’ve “raised” four crops of riders – takes about three years per crop. The first three crops all helped out with the next group. Several of them are still helping out. This forth crop hasn’t been fully trained, because they started later, are too busy or aren’t inclined to help with younger riders. This break in continuity has created a rift in the continuum of horse education that is almost insurmountable. Not only do I not have parental or older rider support, both of which have been abundant in previous sets, but, having realized that the best riders and parents come from the kids that start between the ages of six and eight, I’ve taken on the heaviest load of young riders ever. Kate has been doing half of the work with every single lesson this summer. I felt she deserved more than just money. She asked for a trip to the beach. A trip to the beach with Jaya and Jackson.
“Fiona, would it be OK if Jackson stayed on just a couple more days? I’ve promised a beach trip with him and the earliest it can be schedule would be August 2nd.” Fiona thought that Jackson should be reunited with his old owner as soon as possible. She said she was thinking of the woman’s feelings, but I suspect she wants the whole business done and over with. I pleaded Jaya and Kate’s case. I told her I needed to know what they plan to do as I pay board tomorrow and would have to give notice to the Jensen’s (owners of Campo barn). The last I heard from Fiona was, “what day does Jackson come back from the horse camping?”
I’m not sure that Jackson leaving sunk in right away for Jaya. But by the time I’d finished going back and forth with Fiona, I’d figured out what was eating at Jaya: Arya was getting a turn at riding double with Kate. Jaya know’s she gets the lion’s share of time riding double and she knows she has to share. Even still, the thought of not getting to ride with Kate was almost too much to bear. Jaya loves Kate as much as she loves horses, which is pretty much as much as it is possible for Jaya to love anything. Jaya talks to Kate. She talks non-stop to Kate. She has a need to talk to Kate.
The final arrangement of riders was Jaya, who, despite her reticence and youth, can actually lead, on Velvet, Sophie on Chavali, Kayla on her beloved Cowgirl and Kate and Arya on Jackson. Kate said, “Why don’t we just go to Clark’s Field and play around and ride back and forth in different combos.” And that’s exactly what we did.
First Kate rode with Sophie and Kayla. Then Jaya got a turn riding double with Kate. Then I told them Jackson needed a break. Kate and Kayla got on Velvet and Chavali and blasted across the whole field and back. Arya announced that she didn’t want to ride at all, but wanted to have a foot race in order to “get some energy out.” Sophie did not enjoy the foot race at all and suggested they play games instead. Arya suggested a contest. I didn’t think this was such a good idea. Sophie said, “I don’t want to play tag because that would involve running.” I said they could play hide and seek in the tall grass, except there might be snakes. At this point, Kayla and Kate came charging back, with Chavali trying to overtake Velvet. Kate said, “Can I take just Chavali across the field? She seems to really want to run” and off she went. I looked at Arya, Jaya and Sophie and said, “You know, there’s a perfect fort tree about half way across the field.” They all turned on a dime and headed out, marching off like the three musketeers. They got the bush tree confused with the fort tree and had turned back in disappointment at the same time Kate made it back with a sweating and well run Chavali. Kate, still on Chavali, was quickly dispatched to escort them to the proper tree. Kayla, on Cowgirl, and me, leading Jackson and Velvet, slowly followed. The fort tree was a huge hit with all three youngin’s scrambling around in the branches with Kate coaching from the ground while Chavali grazed. It was only then that I looked at my watch. “Oh dear! It’s time to go.” If looks could kill, I would have been slayed three times.
The fun of riding with Kate is that she rides Jackson in the rear, holds him back at strategic spots, then canters to catch up. The girls will hold their arms out to the sides like wings. It was a brisk, fun ride back to the barns.
Jaya, Arya and Sophie, all of whom were about forty-five minutes short of bedtime, got picked up at Quail. While I stayed with Jackson for a bit at Quail, Kate and Kayla rode Chavali and Velvet back to Campo. When I joined them at Campo, Kate said, “Kayla and I had a race to see who could put all their tack away fastest!” Whenever they are together, this is what they do and they enjoy it enormously. “Who won?” “Me”, said Kate. Kayla is unusually deliberate in everything she does so this did not surprise me. “Can we feed the barn?” Since the Jensens are out of town, the task of feeding fell to us this evening. Off they raced, down the hill with the wheel barrow full of hay, to return very shortly with Kayla in the wheel barrow, laughing hysterically, and Kate pushing.
As I was finishing the last details of clean up, Kate settled down on a stool to check her phone. I said, “Kate, pick up is at Quail. We aren’t staying here.” “We aren’t?” By this time she was a little tired, but not that tired. Seconds later, her eyebrows popped up, she sat up straight and said, “That means Kayla and I can finally race!!!” Kayla and Kate have been wanting to race from Campo to Quail for months. They’ve tried three times, only to be foiled by parental pick up plans each time.
They piled their phones, whips, chaps, water bottles and helmets into and on my bike and were off like a shot. By the time I arrived at Quail, they were sitting on the floor of the tack shack chattering away. Kate’s mom was already there. Kate was not ready to leave. I had to wait until Kayla’s mom showed up so Rebecca, Kate’s mom stayed to chat. Kate and Kayla were now playing a game that involved throwing a water bottle back and forth at each other it and, from what I could tell, were enjoying it immensely. Rebecca said, “I wish more parents would come and follow you and the girls around every now and then so they could see what goes on. They’d have so much more appreciation for what you do and how much good it does for the kids.” I suspect she’s right. Though if Jaya, Sophie or Arya’s parents had tagged along, the girls would not have played. They don’t always play like that and they almost never play as much as they did today, though it was clear that all three had a crying need for it. I do know for sure that Arya, Sophie and Jaya’s parents got tired, happy children tonight.
Of all the riders, it is Kayla who has been most deeply affected by the defection of the older girls. After tonight, Kayla’s faith was renewed. She knows that as long as she’s with Kate, she will be OK. Riding to Clark’s Field, Kate said, “Who’s going to ride Dancer in the Halloween Horse Show?” I said, “you are.” Kate is eager to do some showing and the Westwind Halloween show is one of only two that are available without extraordinary effort. I thought she meant ride in the show, but she was referring to the costume class. “I thought Meera was going to ride him as a bumble bee.” Meera has THE best costuming ideas, but zip on follow through. “No, Kate, you are riding him.” Kate said, “You know how Rachel thought that Stoney should go as a royal horse and have his rider dress as a princess?” I pretended to remember that. “Well, I’d like to ride Dancer in a knight’s costume.” Whether she manages to come up with a knights costume for the Halloween show or not, we will see. But she sure does seem to be riding to the rescue of KLH this summer. I know it won’t last. School will start and the younger riders and I will have to make our own fun for ourselves. They should all be far enough along by that time for that to be possible, and although they won’t like it, it has to happen sometime and they all do eventually have to stand on their own. But we ought to have another good month or so left and we will enjoy every minute of it.
Kate and Kayla, I expect, will be riding together for a very long time to come.