I could hardly wait for Saturday to get here. Finally the day arrived! It was another beautiful, sunny, cloudless day. Carole picked me up and we headed out to Bit of Hope. When we arrived, we gathered in the large, covered arena. We listened to how the Ranch was started and about the spring sessions that would be starting in a month. Then we broke off into small groups so that we could experience what the children would be experiencing when programs began.
Before we could get to work grooming, our group leader showed us how to offer a horseman’s handshake when greeting a horse. She showed us how to curl our fingers under on our hand because if we didn’t, the horse may mistake our fingers for carrots. She modeled how to extend the hand close to the horse’s nose. If the horse sniffed us, that was there way of acknowledging that we were okay and we could approach. I was amazed by the velvety feel of the horse’s nose as she sniffed my hand.
Our first task was to groom a horse. I was assigned to a group that would be working with a beautiful, Chestnut mare. I learned that her name was Ruby and that she was a Quarter Horse mix. The leader of our group explained the different brushes that were in the bucket and what each one was used for. We then had the opportunity to use the different brushes. I set to work with a curry comb on Ruby’s side. I loved the explanation of a curry comb. They are usually round which reminds us that we use this grooming tool in circular movements. It was to loosen the dirt that might be on the horse.
We brushed Ruby and worked on her mane and tail until she was shining. With this task complete, we learned how to pick their hooves. I like to call this a “horse pedicure” :). We learned that this was so important because before riding, the horse’s hooves need to be cleaned in case there was a rock or other object lodged that might cause pain. The whole grooming process is a great indicator of how that horse is feeling that day.
Now the moment I had been waiting for……The helmets were being brought in along with saddles and blankets. We were going to ride!!! It is at this point that I need to tell you that my riding experience was limited to sitting on a horse at my great aunt’s for a picture at the age of four, riding on the back of a horse, being led around, at a birthday party with my children so that they would not be afraid and loving them from afar. As much as I loved them, I had never taken the time to really learn much about them or to ride. However, from the first day my feet touched the ground at Bit of Hope I knew that was all about to change!
As we stood in our groups and learned how to properly mount and dismount, I heard the gate at the end of the arena open. Through it came a man leading the small mare I had seen a few days earlier. He stopped and was talking to Carole. Just as our group leader was asking for volunteers to ride Ruby, the man called me over. I carried my helmet and walked over. Carole introduced him as George, one of the volunteers at Bit of Hope Ranch. He said, “This is Asia. She is the newest horse here and she is just your size. Why don’t you ride her?”
When we reached the mounting block, I went up to Asia and offered her the horseman’s handshake. Her dainty velvet nose came down to my hand and sniffed deeply. It was okay. Her big, soft brown eyes looked at me and my heart melted 🙂 As I stood on the mounting block, I looked back at George and Carole and said, “I should probably tell you that I have really never ridden before.” To this George replied, “That’s okay. Today will be the first time anyone at Bit of Hope has ridden Asia!” Now you need to know that Asia had been ridden before, just not at the Ranch. I didn’t want you to think they were using me to break in a horse for the first time :).
As George and Carole took turns leading me around the arena on Asia’s back, pure joy exploded inside. What a feeling! Finally at the age of forty-five, I was becoming a cowgirl and inside my heart a small mare found an instant place 🙂 That night would begin another series of dreams that involved once again the name of Asia…..the first time led us to our daughter, who was adopted from Korea…..this time would lead me…..