An instructor is only as a good her lesson horses. I recently sold the best lesson horse I’ve ever had, and I miss his security already. He was a partner that I could always count on, but being a lesson horse is hard work and it was time for him to get a vacation.
When looking for a lesson horse to replace him, it got me thinking about how much we expect from these co-workers that we cannot verbally communicate to. They have to be predictable; I have to know that the worst thing they will do is take one extra step to the left if a bolt of lightning strikes nearby while a big flapping tarp goes floating through the arena. My co-worker must be gentle in his reaction no matter what the scenario; it is literally a matter of life and death. If a child is going to fall, it had better be the child’s fault and not my partner. At the same time, he (or she) needs to have something that makes him (or her) a little challenging. The rider has to learn something after all, so long as it’s challenging in a fun, learning way!
These wonderful animals deal with so much no matter who owns them, but for a lesson horse they must have the strength to deal with anyone who comes near him. They are constantly being given the wrong cues and pulled on in the wrong direction. No matter how good the instructor, there is always a learning curve for students, and the lesson horse is the one that takes the brunt of that. A lesson horse has to be forgiving over and over again.
I remember my first lesson horse that I rode. A child will carry that first horse in their hearts their whole lives. Even for students that don’t continue riding. Everyone has a horse story, no matter how short it was. “I rode this big horse named Fish who was this red color and he had a white stripe down his face.” I’ve heard this opening line a hundred times with a hundred different colors and names. When people hear you work with horses, they want to tell you their first experience. As an instructor, it’s my responsibility to make sure that first experience is a great one, and my lesson horses are the key to that experience.
These lesson horses give confidence; they let you know that you can actually ride a horse! You can control a thousand pound animal, because they make it possible through their gentle demeanor. My heart becomes so full when a child ties a bond with one of my lesson horses. I am so grateful to that horse for what he does not only for me, but all of the riders he has loved and given wings to. I am so grateful for how well these horses take care of all of us.