I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn't beg and plead for horseback riding lessons. I have loved horses since I knew what the animal was. I never took an actual horseback riding lesson until I was sixteen years old (or seventeen?) and, as I had always imagined, I loved it. I loved every aspect of riding and caring for horses from the obvious fun of jumping and learning how to sit the different gaits right down to mucking out stalls.
However, my time as a rider was short-lived. Soon after starting I went to college and then marriage, babies and all the rest of it. I haven't been on a horse in years.
I should not have been surprised when Madeleine starting talking about wanting to learn to ride; she's the child who's most like me, personality-wise. It should not have shocked me that she has loved every aspect of riding and horse care since she started riding a year and a half ago. I no longer marvel that my little girly-girl who shrieks when she merely catches a glimpse of a worm doesn't mind getting all mucky and dirty as long as the dirt comes from leading a horse out to pasture or picking a horse hoof.
And not only does she love to do it, but she's able to do it all on her own. When she arrives at the stables for lesson night she runs to check which horse she's been assigned to and is able to retrieve him or her from their stall, brush them down, pick their hooves, find their tack and put everything on all by herself.
She is still supervised when putting the bit on the bridle into the horse's mouth, but even that she's learned to do with confidence.
I'm not going to lie, the whole deal is a huge pain in the you-know-what. The stables are far away. It's cold there. All the kids have to be properly attired (you can't wear flip-flops around horses!). But I love all that Madeleine is learning and the responsibility she's learning by taking care of something other than herself.