Now before anyone goes racing off to report me to the authorities, let me explain.
Liam and Perry (June 2014)
When Liam goes for his riding lessons, I’ve taken to sitting in the car, to catch up on paperwork/reading, and it also gives him the chance to have a proper chat with whoever’s taking him for the lesson; when I go along, they tend to talk to me more. I enjoy watching him ride, but, as he’s getting older, I know I have to take those steps back.
While Liam’s mounting up and getting ready, I wait in the yard, fussing the horses and, especially, Toby the dog, who is so adorable. Back in the day, he’d bark at me every time I arrived, taking his job as guard dog very seriously. Not that he ever had a go at me; he’d bark, I’d stand in front of him and say ‘hello’, he’d sniff at my hand, I’d give him a pat and that would be that. But now, we make eye contact, I say, “Hello, Toby” and he comes over, lies down at my feet and presents his tummy :)
Toby waiting for his tummy rub ... except he's fallen asleep!
Then Liam goes for his lesson on Perry, I sit in the car, and when he returns, I go back to the yard. Ever since he started back with lessons this year, Liam's lesson horse has been Perry, a retired race horse; can't remember his age, but he is under 10. Because he was a flat racer, he's only now learning to tackle jumps. But he is a total sweetheart, all he wants to do is please, and will do anything you ask him, even if it's something totally new, and even he's not sure about it. He's always a bit sluggish at the beginning of the lesson, and Liam does have to work to get him going, but he enjoys riding Perry.
So, after his lesson on Tuesday, as I was walking up to him, he grinned at me and said, “We’re even now.” Of course, my instant reaction was one of confusion. Then he showed me his bloodied elbow – he’d fallen off at canter! Just as well I hadn’t been watching – I’d have probably made things a whole lot worse by freaking out.
His previous lesson, he’d almost slid off at canter … This lesson, he decided he might as well do it properly. He didn’t fly off as I had done in Spain; his departure from the saddle was more controlled and graceful, and he had a softer landing. He started to lose his balance, and came off by Perry’s right shoulder. He said he was a bit teary, and I said not to worry about that, it’s his body’s way of dealing with shock – everyone reacts differently. He landed on his right arm, and ended up on his back. He doesn't recall hitting his head, but the back of his head felt a little sore that evening; I'm not taking any chances, I will be getting him a new helmet - cheaper than a new head!
Becky, his instructor, went to collect Perry before he decided the lesson was over ;) and left Liam to sort himself out, and get back on his feet in his own time. He said he appreciated her doing that, instead of clucking around him, or pushing him to stand. She helped him back onto Perry, which I thought was plenty good enough. Then she told him to canter again. Which he did. And he totally enjoyed it! He said Perry responded well, and he felt like he was flying around the arena … and cantered about 2.5 circuits :)
I am so proud of him. Liam used to be a bit of a ‘baby’ with anything that involves pain, much like his mummy ;) The fact that he got back on Perry, and then went right into the canter, I think is amazing. I know I’m his mother, but, having been in that same situation, I know what a hard and scary thing it can be. He’s really proud of himself as well, which is the most important thing. Becky did wonder if maybe he’d been worried about falling, as he’s never fallen off a horse before … But, once he experienced it, it was as if it freed him, and boosted his confidence. They do say that you're not a real rider until you've fallen off - you'd think I'd be an expert by now ;)
On the drive home, he couldn’t stop talking about it, and didn’t have anything bad to say about the experience at all. He said, all things considered, that was the best bit of riding he’s ever done; his entire focus was on the positive.
After the lesson, walking down the path towards the road leading back to the stables (July 2014)
I’ve come to the conclusion that I can definitely learn important lessons from my boys – Gordon and his perseverance with his driving lessons and tests, which he finally passed on the fourth attempt, not once losing his motivation but keeping his eye on the prize; and Liam’s courage at getting back on Perry and cantering.