Tuesday I got to fulfill a childhood dream: ride and jump my horse at my elementary school!
Because seriously, what horse-crazy little girl didn't run around the playground play-acting like she was a horse or had an imaginary horse to gallop around and jump over everything!? There were even a few things on the playground I had decided I would indeed jump one day...they'd sadly (and probably for the better, haha) been removed.
So when an opportunity to do a jump/English demo for 220+ elementary schoolers with my local riding club was presented to me...oh you bet I accepted right away!
We had minis for petting, pony rides on some burly QHs, and Qbert doing a jump demo.
I took the jump standards Mike & Dom made for me, figuring the bright teal and purple would please the kids. I had no idea how much space I'd have to use, so 3 jumps seemed to be enough.
After yesterday morning's trail ride with Mike (pre-planned not only to see if Q would behave better for him, but also to wear her down before presenting for kids), Mike and I bathed her and prettied her up.
Mike was hilarious throughout the bath process, talking to Q and telling her all about how her First Day of School was going to be. "All of the kids are going to love you, Qbee. Don't be nervous. It'll be fun. Your momma needs to braid your mane all pretty because its your first day! So be good so she can do that - nope, no moving your head. Be good. You know? My favorite part of school was always recess - I think you're going to get to go JUST for recess! You'll love it. All of the kids will love you. Don't worry."
Its really no wonder she loves him more than me lol.
We had her all done up and the jumps loaded in no time.
Q was a bit of a horror to load on Dee's 2 horse slant load. We even led her on because there was a great escape door to slip out. The new routine: Plant Feet and Do Not Ever Put More Than Two Feet On The Trailer. Rear Up and Back FAST If Provoked. Back Off Fast If Door Closes. Use Ass To Push Door Open. Do Not Move Feet To Get Back On.
This is frustrating...but at least her heart rate isn't super elevated. She's not freaking out any more. She's just being obstinate without being panicked. The rapid backing off is awful, but le sigh. I suppose the whole ordeal is better than how things originally were with loading! (grumblegrumblegrumble)
Finally, we were off like a herd of turtles.
We arrived at the school and learned that we'd be on the playground and I'd be setting my jumps up between the soccer goals. Cool. Not a lot of space, but cool.
I prepped Q and in no time we were walking across from where we'd parked to mount up! I was a bit apprehensive, but Q's body language since getting off the trailer was already demonstrative of Away From Home Q. This helped me calm some. (Away from home I am her herd. At home she doesn't care for any human as much as the other horses. Strange horses away from home aren't as appealing to her. She makes me her rock at endurance rides, following my every movement, nickering at me every time she catches site of me, etc. She even gave my Fort Valley crew the same treatment. We were her herd away from home.)
I'd decided to dress in eventer attire more than show jumping attire for the day. I had all the orange, kids like colors, and wearing the crash vest would 1.) save my ass some if she dumped me, and 2.) promote that safety is important around horses for the kids.
Guys, we had 220+ kids to present to! 220! Eep!
They were seated on either side of the field in the soccer goal area. I wouldn't have a ton of space to maneuver. Q needed to be ON POINT if this was going to work.
|Big stride for a little mare!|
I focused completely on Q, trotted her around, trotted her over each jump, decided she was in a good calm mood, and breathed a sigh of relief. Away From Home Q was here. Excelente.
I guided her over to the first group of kids and said, "Can you guys say, 'Hi Q?" and was welcomed to a chorus of "Hiiieeeee QQQQQ!" I told them about Q, about how jumping was only a secondary job for her because endurance was her primary job. I warned them about being too loud or too fast with their movements (something they were VERY attentive to and very, very good about any time Q was within 20' of them). I answered a few of their questions, then did all three jumps 1x through. I then stopped at the opposite end of the soccer field and did the same talking song and dance with that group of kids. Then I jumped some more.
|Cantering between the verticals. We'd circle and do the X first and then|
travel clockwise to hit the two verticals, sometimes going around the whole
area a second time after the second vertical.
I obliged, taking them up to the 2' range. We did the jumps again to ooo's and aahh's. I answered some more questions, explained that this was pretty high jumping for Q! I told them that she doesn't do this all the time and that most horses who jump so high that kids see on TV are usually at least a foot taller than my little girl.
They grew bored with me again, so I took both verticals up to 2'9" ish.
That satisfied the little buggers.
|Good girl, Q!|
I dismounted, letting the kids on each side line up to pet her neck. I answered questions all the while about Q, her age, her job, her likes and dislikes, how long I'd been riding, if jumping was scary, how pretty her browband was (Karen, she got SO MANY compliments on that browband!), what was on her feet (some kids hadn't seen hooves before! lol), why she was eating grass, what is she scared of (butterflies, flowers, the sun, the wind, the rain, other horses, mini horses, dirt......), if I owned her, etc. etc. I also entertained many mini stories about kids who had horses/had ridden a horse/had seen a horse/had read about a horse.
|I was standing with one group of kids while they petted Q.|
You can see the tight area we had to work with!
Lucky Q was so calm and SLOW about everything.
I gave the same speech song and dance to both sets of kids on each side of the field, jumped some, answered more questions, "Do you have to wear a helmet?" "Yes. I have been trampled and have fallen off this horse twice this week. My big toe is broken, my ribs are bruised, I have lots of bruises, and I hit my head pretty hard, too. I choose to wear this helmet or I'd probably be hurting more!" (Whoops, just realized I never mentioned all that on the blog - only Facebook. I'm fine - healing, but fine mostly. But Q needs to learn to stay the hell out of my space when she's feeling scared. Trampling me is NO BUENO. NO BUENO.)
I jumped a little more, then let the kids all pet her again, fielded more questions, and then it was over.
I had a water and I dumped another water on Q's neck since we'd been standing around in the hot sun.
|To the left of the slide and the right of the mini rainbow monkey bars|
there used to be a curvy balance beam about a foot high.
That was what I wanted to jump my horse over when I was a kid.
Now...its a bench.
has NEVER been ridden during a jumping lesson, we're not too bad. One day I'd like to get some proper instruction, but I'm pretty proud of what Q and I have achieved in just two years of largely self-instruction.
And more than anything, I'm so thrilled with this little mare's performance yesterday. I needed that boost. I'm glad she chose to redeem herself. I know it isn't a lasting thing and she'll be wiggy a lot more at home, but the fact that she can step up to the plate and be so awesome when it really counts means a lot. She was so stellar with all of the kids, standing with a hind leg at rest, eyes half closed through all of the 220+ pettings.
Thanks, Qbert, for putting up with me and these silly childhood dreams. From parades to endurance to a showcase at my old elementary school, this horse - despite our issues with one another - has helped me fulfill a heckuva lot of pipe dreams.