Chloe had her very first horseback riding lesson yesterday and it was, ummmm... interesting. The place that I had originally wanted her to take lessons at was booked into the Fall, so I decided instead to take her to another local riding academy. Big mistake.
Chloe was so excited. The American Girl series Felicity is her all-time favorite, and in the series the main character learns to ride a horse. Thus began Chloe's infatuation with all things equestrian, and she asked for horseback riding lessons for her 8th birthday. I had a feeling that this was not going to be a great experience as soon as we walked in. None of the staff acknowledged us beyond telling a young girl that Chloe would be riding "Darlin." I had explained to the owner that Chloe had never been on a horse before- she took one pony ride last year that was literally 25 seconds long- so I was surprised when Darlin turned out to be a pretty big horse. Without so much as a word of instruction, Chloe was told - by the young girl, no less - to climb up the stool and hop up on Darlin.
She was really excited! I was really nervous. I asked a few of the other moms standing around when the "instruction" part of the lesson would occur, and they seemed confused by my question. My anxiety increased. As Darlin and Chloe started running around the ring, I asked a new mom that had just walked up when they started, you know, teaching the girls what to do. She shrugged and then mentioned that her daughter was thrown from the horse last week. In fact, they had gone straight from the barn to the Urgent Care, she added cheerfully.
I'm sorry, WHAT?
At this point I was looking at my watch, wondering how much longer this was going to go on, when suddenly Charlie and I were attacked by a swarm of biting horse flies. Not kidding. We ran for cover into this inside room, and I proceeded to watch Chloe through the glass as she went around and around and around the ring on Darlin.
She literally must have circled that ring 100 times. I felt so badly for her - I could tell she was getting so tired, and the lady in the center of the ring just kept yelling for her to sit up straighter and keep her horse from getting too close to the others. I felt like I had entered the twilight zone.
When, mercifully, the lesson ended, Chloe was behind a little girl who got taken off her horse and was told to lead the horse back to the barn. As the little girl started walking, the huge horse inadvertently stepped on her foot and didn't move. The little girl started screaming, and the instructor came over, gave the horse a shove, and then said to the little girl in a nasty voice, "Remember, horses canNOT see your feet!" At this point I pretty much grabbed Chloe off Darlin myself. She made it all the way to the car before she started crying.
"It seems like she didn't know I'd never been on a horse before," she managed through sobs. "Why did she keep making me do all those tricks?"
We spent dinner talking about the fact that sometimes experiences we think are going to be wonderful turn out to be awful. It's what we do next that determines our character. Horseback riding is something she really wanted to try - so is she going to quit and never get on a horse again, or is she going to gather up her courage and try again (this time, I assured her, at a better place)? She thought about it and decided that she would definitely try again, and I had the privilege of seeing a crummy experience turn into a teachable moment.
" We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan."