When we first brought Polly home last spring, the girls got started riding bareback right away. No pad, no bridle, just good old-fashioned hold onto the mane, find your balance, and enjoy the ride while Mom leads the way, kind of riding. It was good for them. I could see them getting stronger and more confident with every ride. I vividly remember the day my oldest daughter (Raegen) rode down the path telling me all about how she planned to someday be a trick-rider. She had just seen another one of those little girl and her pony movies and I could tell she had borrowed a few ideas. As she dreamed out loud, I heard all about her plans to stand on Polly’s back, ride her into the water and dive off of her four legged friend. From where she sat, she couldn’t see my smile. But as her energetic words filled the air, I couldn’t help but recall a few of my own childhood cowgirl dreams. It was as if a mini-me sat atop the pony that day.
Time passed and the girls continued to become better riders. I decided it was time to get them in a saddle. A phone call away, sat the saddle that I learned to ride on as a young girl. My father was kind enough to not only save the saddle, but pass it on to his granddaughters. After a trip to the saddlery shop, it was good as new.
Before too long, the no-hands trick was getting old, and Raegen was ready to move on. She begged for a faster pace. With her cowgirl hat on straight, hands on the horn, and a determined look in her eye, she told me she was ready to trot. So trot we did. Only, a few strides in, Raegen’s hat flew off of her head, giving Polly a bit of a startle. She quickly picked up speed, and then threw on the brakes all in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, Raegen went flying forward, landing on the ground. She was fine. No broken bones, just a couple of bumps and a mighty big scare for a little girl. She stood, dusted off and cried. I held her, and as I did, my childhood came flashing back into my head again. I remembered my first horse mishap. I remembered crying, never wanting to ride even a carousel again, and I remember my Dad making me get back in the saddle. I squeezed her tight, wiped her tears, and when she was settled down, I told her that she had to get back on. She didn't want to at first, but with a little convincing, she threw her leg over the saddle and was riding again. I was so proud of my little girl in that moment. She was brave and strong, and she learned an invaluable lesson that she will hold onto her entire life. How do I know this? Because, I learned the same lesson, the same way, some 25 years ago.