In the cross-ties, Champ and Beau were very restless, pacing, pawing, looking around, and neighing with high-pitched screams that scared my hater-of-loud-noises daughter. I did most of the grooming because I wasn't sure how much Wren was going to be able to stay out of his way and whether his ticklish spots were activated. He didn't kick out at all, but he sure was antsy.
Had I less of a sense of discipline, I would have said, look, today is not a good day for a ride. Or, maybe I would have asked if they could ride in the indoor ring instead. In retrospect, the indoor ring would have been best. Champ actually goes pretty well in there.
Of the three girls in the lesson, only one managed to stay on. Wren knows the "no shrieking on Champ" rule, but when five geldings come barrelling up alongside the ring at a gallop, encouraging the other equines to follow suit, it's hard not to shriek. A couple trot steps, then a couple canter strides, and although Wren sat back and tried to whoa, the reins were too long, the other horses were galloping outside the ring, and it was all too much. He went faster, and off she went, 15 hands down onto her left side. She cried a lot, of course, and although she wasn't hurt, she was terrified in that moment. Right after Champ went nutty, Lily also got a wild hair and dumped Cassidy. Meanwhile, big Beau just stood there, with Janna up, mid-dressage test. Lots of neighing and sobbing and parents running. And ponies running.
It took a good bit of coaxing and encouragement to get Wren back on Champ. I promised she would only walk with him, and that I would walk alongside and have a hand ready on the reins. It took even more encouragement to keep her in the saddle, assure her she was fine and Champ was fine and that I was there, but eventually, she walked around the big ring, and then went into the indoor for some more walking and stepping over poles. After a while, she gave Champ to one of the other little girls to ride for a while, and we gathered our things and went home. In the car, we talked about not giving up, and we coached her thinking toward resilience and trying again and positive thinking. When we got home, I pampered her a little bit, getting her some comfy sweatpants to wear, and letting her take a nice, long, hot bath at bedtime to soak her sore muscles. Lots of hugs, too. She was fine all afternoon and evening, talked a little about the ride and the fall and went to bed fairly easily.
Travis told me he doesn't like Champ, that he thinks he is too unpredictable, too sketchy to handle, and he thinks Wren is afraid of him now. That makes me sad, because it's probably true. But there is no other pony in the barn who is rock-solid bombproof that Wren can learn on. I don't know how to find the balance between her being bored to death on a pony that has NO get-up and go, and riding a pony that can go fast sometimes and maybe be a little scary to her. And it's not as simple as buying a pony for her, either, because that costs money we don't have, and there are tons of unknowns in that scenario that I am not prepared to undertake at the moment -- unscrupulous sellers with ponies they manipulate into looking like the perfect pony, the risks inherent in owning a pony that can be different in different settings, or secretly ill, or lame, or any other issue that can come with owning a pony. I'm not sure what to do now, except wait and talk to our trainer.
Of course, Wren just got up, and we are looking at video of the canter and gallop in slow motion, so Wren can see why "it feels like jumping" when Champ takes off. She seems totally over it, and acknowledges she "CAN canter, but isn't ready for it, really", and that it scares her a little. Sometimes I think parents make more of these things than the kids do. She seems relatively unscathed, and says nothing about NOT going back to ride. Now I just need to get my anxiety under control and all will be well.
Maybe if I can just do what I told her to do yesterday -- take a deep breath and relax -- I can come to a better place of peace. Riding for myself is hard and scary sometimes; it's worse as a parent of a kid who rides. But I'll get over it. Wren really loves horses and I know she does want to do this. It will get better.
But I think we are going to replace her purple schooling helmet and buy her a really, really good helmet.