Some riding pictures

Elise has another horse show on Saturday, so she spent her riding lesson this week working with her trainer on what to expect. The weather has cooled down in Florida, which makes us want to spend all our time outside. Chewy is getting a winter coat already. Even he was happy with the weather.

Look at this equitation, for a seven-year-old!

Working on getting into the jumping position.

Elise is very strong for a little kid. Her trainer has her riding at a trot and posting without reins, and she has zero problem balancing on the horse. She doesn’t even get worried about falling. She was born to be on the back of a horse. I can’t wait to see how far she goes with riding.

Farm life, sporting life

One of my favorite parts of driving through the Florida countryside these days are the thousands of sand cranes hanging out in recently plowed fields. They follow the tractors as they harvest crops or turn over fresh soil, taking advantage of all the creatures the plow reveals. Somehow they have no fear of tractors, but with a single passing vehicle they all take flight. It’s mesmerizing.

While Elise was having her riding lesson today, I watched a rafter of wild turkeys wandering through the paddocks. They are very much at home on the horse farm, climbing one-by-one through the fences and pecking around in the dirt next to the thoroughbreds.

Elise is in love with the chickens, especially now that there are a bunch of adorable chicks bouncing around in the chicken coops. We signed her up for the equestrian program of 4H this year, so she’s now a little Cloverbud. Fortunately, the ag extension office is next door to her stables, so it’s all going to be familiar territory for her.

Elise has another horse show coming up at the end of October. She’s going to be competing in more advanced classes this go around, so that’s exciting.

Taking care of her pony, Chewy.

For those who enjoy hunting and horseback riding, Garden & Gun’s sporting issue is out now and they absolutely knocked it out of the park. There is a wonderful, detailed article on the historical roadblocks to preserving the wilderness in the Everglades and the great work Governor Ron DeSantis and his allies are doing to save the park, including their rebuke of Big Sugar lobbyists. There is a piece on Pat Conroy’s widow’s new memoir of their life together. There is a section on collecting shotguns and quail hunting in Old Florida. I devoured the whole thing. Oh, and they also have a lot of great game recipes to try, including duck, rabbit, and boar, all of which we have in considerable supply here in Florida.

Summer Equestrian Program

Today was the first day of the Summer Equestrian Program (or “horse camp,” as we call it in our household) at the stables E trains at every week. She did a similar program in March and is very excited to see her friends again. (This is hunter-jumper riding, not western.)

E ready to get on to barn chores.

E has been around horses since she was born. We moved to Florida from Lexington, Kentucky (“Thoroughbred Capital of the World”) and for over a decade lived in Woodford County, where the most expensive and talented horses in racing and eventing are bred.

A horse farm near where we used to live.

Everyone who lived around us had something to do with the equine industry. The farm that bordered our property had two Kentucky Derby winners. Another neighbor was an equine veterinarian. Another was a farrier. We went to see horse races at Churchill Downs and Keeneland all the time. We went to polo matches every Sunday during the season. We were members of the Thoroughbred Club of America, where we could hang out with owners, trainers, and jockeys. These experiences have been a tremendous asset when it comes to riding. Her riding instructor said she’s never seen a child that is so fearless when it comes to horses.

E’s first horse, which she called Secretariat.
E after her first horse show. (Yes, I am really into gardening…)

Horse camp is wonderful for the children on so many levels. They spend their mornings doing farm chores, which teaches them about the value of hard work and teamwork.

In the afternoons, they practice riding. On her normal riding days, E rides Welsh ponies. At horse camp, the kids get to try out all different kinds of horses, from draft horses to thoroughbreds to quarter horses. They get to do fun things like ride on trails instead of in the ring and riding bareback. Her stable even lets to the kids do games, like that egg-spoon race we did growing up… but on horseback.

In her happy place.

This fall, E’s stable is supposed to have an equine 4-H program, and we are all very much looking forward to that.