Bay Reflection
Gifts of the Season
Patience and cooperation, hardened by sheer guts and determination, crystalize into sweet success
by Aloysia C. Hamalainen

The holiday rat race, er, shopping season is in full swing. My daughters and I search for gifts whose desirability is directly proportional to our difficulty in finding them. Naturally, they are disappointed, because nothing that is piled high in all the shops is right, and little talking furry creatures are nowhere to be found.

After shopping all day Saturday, the time came to give the horses their evening feed. I haul my children, grumbling and stewing, to the barn. The chores are quickly done, and the breeze is so balmy and the ground is so nice and dry we might as well do a little riding. The lessons they have been taking since summer at the riding school brought them right to the brink of jumping, a major accomplishment in the riding world. I decided to forgo the lessons for the winter, since the weather can be so miserable, but, weirdly, it is like springtime right now.

I can give them a jumping lesson. We'll just use D'Orsaz, my retired event horse and show jumper, and practice over poles on the ground and do a little x. We just have to go over a few fundamentals.

"I want heels down and shoulders back. I want big round circles at each end of the ring, straight lines into the poles and a nice trot," I announced from the middle of the ring. One after the other, they did everything but what I asked. I watched horrified as they yanked and pulled the reins, with their shoulders hunched and the toes pointing down like ballerinas. The proud little horse halted and refused to go over the jump.

"He's too old and he won't do anything," Christine huffed, approaching me after a circuit of balks and yanks and stops.

"He doesn't feel you balanced on his back, and you don't give him enough time and room to make your turns," I tried to explain, frustration making my voice shrill.

"Well, I don't know what you want, and that jump is too high. I'm getting off," she retorted.

She was not the only one in a snit. D'Orsaz's nostrils were flaring, and his jaw was tight, his lips clenched. He seemed to say "I am not to be treated like this." I stroked his shoulder as my daughter stalked off. Dark clouds hovered over all of us.

The next day, Sunday, was again gorgeous. This time, just Christine and I went to the barn for afternoon feed. "Mom, I really want to know how to jump. What was I doing wrong?"

I had to carefully consider my answer. "Well, you know he has four legs and a big body, so you have to let him know when you want him to do something different at least 30 feet away. And he needs to know you are safe on his back, so you have to keep your legs and body in the right place. You have to give to him, so he can give back to you. He wants to do it right as much as you do."

The jumping poles and little jump were still set up from the day before. Such a simple exercise, which takes so much in patience and timing and cooperation. A virtual mountain to climb for a little girl facing her first jump.

She stroked his neck as she warmed him up walking around the ring. She listened carefully as I showed her where to make certain movements and how to hold her reins and body. The horse's ears were pricked forward and his tail flowed like a flag. The three of us were working in sync as she piloted the horse and I gave encouraging comments.

A big round circle on one end of the ring and then straight to the trotting poles. Four big strides and they were over them, and eyes forward, heels down and shoulders back, they made another circle at the other side of the ring and a straight line to the jump. I held my breath, but Christine squeezed her heels down, kept her hands still and with a lovely bound they were over.

Laughing in exhilaration and patting the horse on the neck, Christine trotted over to me. All our eyes were bright and we were all smiling. "That was wonderful, Mom! I felt like I was flying." I do not know who was more proud.

What we gave each other in those few minutes! The gifts of patience and cooperation, hardened by sheer guts and determination and crystalizing into sweet success. A whole lot finer and more rare than anything bought with a dollar. And when this year's toys are long broken and forgotten, this precious moment will stay brilliant and undiminished.

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Volume VI Number 49
December 10-16, 1998
New Bay Times

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