I've been working in therapeutic riding lessons for the past couple of weeks because Sunny, the tiny Standardbred with the delicate physique has hurt himself again. His owner (who lends him to my human, Lil, for lessons), calls it Recurring Sunny Summer Lameness (RSSL), because he likes to maim himself each summer and spend at least a month hopping around three-legged.
The thing I love about working in lessons is the attention I get. I am, of course, the most beautiful horse in the arena, and the humans go all silly when I strut by with their kid on my back. Then of course there's the volunteer leading me and the two walking beside me to help the rider, and I get more praise and patting than the top dog at Westminster.
Imagine my surprise, then, when my second rider yesterday got all pouty when he found out he'd be riding me instead of Louis the Canadian horse he usually rides. I know these humans get attached to one specific horse and everything, but come on, who wouldn't pick me? Oh well, there's no accounting for taste, and at least Louis has the proper attitude to life. As far as he's concerned, everything revolves around him! I don't mind saying I've mentored him in that area.
And a pain in the...
While I was relishing the camera flashes popping every time I walked past the parents watching at the arena door, it suddenly came back to me why Lil and I decided to pull me out of lessons last year: my back was getting really sore. We'd done some trotting, and my rider was a bouncer. My poor back muscles are going to need some serious stretching and massage work today, and no more bouncing kids for a while.
I never hold a grudge, though. That's a uniquely human thing that horses barely understand and certainly don't practice. So I though I'd try to brighten my pouty rider's mood with some patented Henk tricks that humans always seem to appreciate. For example, when we're supposed to be weaving our way through the pylons laid out in a nice straight line, I try to step on as many as possible and completely destroy their orderly arrangement. Sometimes my riders catch onto this, and help me out by steering me straight at the cones instead of around them like they're supposed to. Although Lil should correct them, she usually just laughs. That wasn't having the desired effect with the pouty one, though, and it wasn't until I picked up a cone in my teeth and waved it around a while that I got a proper giggle out of the boy.
Where's my carrot?
Well we got through the lesson alright, and of course the pouty one was laughing and happy by the time we'd finished all our games and trotting and steering exercises. Of course he was! They always are. That's the cool thing about these therapeutic lessons -- the riders always end up smiling. The same can't be said for those "regular" riders who are preparing for a show or training a horse to sell him (!) who more often than not end up all frustrated and angry. And blame the horse of course, for not doing what they think they were asking him to do. But that's a story for another time. Our riders leave us happier than when they came, and that makes even a sore back tolerable. That and a good brushing after the lesson and a nice juicy carrot before I go into my stall.