Today I went to a competition, and as usual filled my car up with grooms. You can never have too many grooms. I usually ask a couple of the teenage helpers or clients. One girl always comes with me and I guessed that she wouldn’t want to spend all day in the company of my chauffeur while I rode, so I asked one of my clients.
It’s not for their help that I ask, obviously I appreciate being able to pass things or have them hold my horse while I put on my boots or something, but I think it’s so educational experiencing travelling a horse, the equipment and tack, other horses and competition standards and courses.
Today we managed to talk about the turbine bones in the nasal cavity, horses losing their milk teeth, green ribbons in tails, and the letters of a long arena. As well as the fact the girls walked the courses, fitted tendon boots, put a breastplate on, changed the bit, loaded the horse and correctly cooled him off after cross country.
One of the fathers of the girls who helped me today told me yesterday that his daughter really looks up to me and admires me, so could I have a quiet word with her about the importance of school work. Flattering, but does it put the pressure on or what?
Life is a circle of role models, especially as a kid growing up on a yard. Even when I was six and on the lead rein I remember admiring the girls who we’d me round because they could ride. Albeit I thought anyone who was off the lead rein could ride.
Later on, when I had a pony on loan and then my own I always looked up to the older girls. I loved their horses and would do anything to be able to groom or bring them in. Being surrounded by older girls meant that we were quite mature for our age, and also knew things that perhaps we shouldn’t …
When I started secondary school I was super cool because I had friends in the older years. It was nice to have some familiar faces down the congested corridors.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was the familiar face in the corridor, with younger kids tapping my shoulder and grinning inanely, or shouting my name down the corridor. It was me who helped teach them, school their ponies and give them a lift to their first shows.
There’s still pressure though, if you say the wrong thing, or express an opinion, you fall off your mantle. And it’s amazing how six months later they repeat it back to you! As they grow up they get more independent; it’s like watching your children fly the nest, and you realise your advice or guidance isn’t needed anymore. When I go back to my childhood yard I see all the girls there, who aren’t girls anymore but almost grown up, and I realise that a) I remember one of them being born and her older brother telling me excitedly in primary school, and b) they’re on the verge of leaving school and finding their way in the big bad world, and no longer find enjoyment with their Breyer horses.
I guess as an instructor I am a role model for kids of all ages and abilities, which means I just have to try and stay up on my mantle and when they grow up and move on they can still reflect on my teachings and company
in a positive light. I’d like to think that the two girls who came with me today enjoyed themselves and learnt a lot, and also developed some ambitions and goals now they have a wider picture of the equestrian world.