Saturday, September 14, 2013

Celebration of Goals Accomplished

My Adventure Girl has wanted to learn to ride a horse from the first time she saw one.  We promised her that, now that she is old enough, we would find a place to ride in California.  Once we arrived and realized that riding lessons would mean a $70/week commitment and a drive through the craziness that is the interstate system, we had to backpedal a bit.  We made a deal instead that if she (yes, at 7 and a half) finally stopped sucking her thumb, we would take her on a trail ride instead.  Luckily, an awesome deal on Living Social came up right at the same time that she not only stopped sucking her thumb for three weeks, but also hasn't chewed holes in the neckline of any of her shirts.  This is huge.  Huge.  So I bought the deal.  But this also meant that I, who at 32 have never ridden a horse myself, also had to go along.  Yipes.

After buying the voucher online for the Sea Horse Ranch in Half Moon Bay, I made the mistake of reading the reviews for the place on Yelp.  And they were not good.  But, at less than half price, I figured we could always walk away if it was really that terrible.  And at first, I wasn't convinced.  I had to sign our lives away, which is to be expected, but the wording of the waiver was downright scary.  It talked about how tiny humans attempting to tame and ride animals that are several times their size is kinda crazy.  (We were the only ones of the group who chose to wear helmets, which I was surprised by.  Helmets to us are just one of those ugly necessities.  Why risk a head injury when you can easily wear protection?) Also included was the standard legal muck about not being responsible should anything bad happen to us...and it was quite likely that something bad would happen, according to the waiver.  So, lesson one learned: it's best to just skim over the fine print sometimes.

Except when it concerns my child, I suppose.  Being responsible for a little person's life runs the One Republic lyric through my mind all the time: "Old, but I'm not that old.  Young, but I'm not that bold." I'm more afraid of doing things that have potential to result in harm to myself because I have to be able to take care of the kids, and letting them do things that involve potential for danger is even worse.  By the time all of these thoughts had passed through my mind, I had also overheard the ride guides, speaking to each other in Spanish, discussing what to do with Ava, who was the smallest and youngest beginner rider of the group by decades. I understand enough Spanish to know that they decided to have one of the guides ride alongside her, leading her horse along.  I was good with that.  But then they put me up on Dot.  Did I mention that I have never been on a horse?  As soon as I grabbed the reins, she backed up.  Quickly.  And I panicked a bit.  The guides told me to pull more gently when I wanted her to stop (whoops) and then, with no real explanation of what we were going to be doing, the horses began strolling down the path toward the Coastal Trail.

And I do mean strolling.  Which I was perfectly happy with.  I ended up in the middle of the pack, while Adventure Girl was taking up the rear with her guide.  I was not at all comfortable with her being behind me where I couldn't see what was happening, but it was probably for the best.  The guides wanted me to get comfortable on my own horse without worrying about Ava as well.  I'll admit, I was nervous for at least a third of the ride.  I didn't know what I was doing.  How do you steer a horse?  What if Dot decided to just take off at a gallop and leave the group behind? The guide nearby made a clicking sound, and all of a sudden she was trotting.  Afterward, he taught me how to stand a little to make trotting more comfortable.  Following a jaunt through a creek and some muddy muck (Ava's favorite part), we eventually ended up at a steep path down the bluff to the beach.  By this time, Ava and her guide were in the lead, and I held my breath the whole time she was descending the slope.  She didn't panic once, the whole ride.  But she did say afterward that she was expecting it to be a pony ride, like at the Alaska State Fair, and that she was surprised to ride an actual huge horse.  We won't be taking riding lessons anytime soon (hooray for my bank account!).

On the beach portion of the ride, I finally got comfortable with Dot, as she had stopped to eat the weeds several times and didn't seem in any hurry to escape her sandy paradise.  The part of the morning that I enjoyed most was the Northern California beachy weather.  People around here think I'm crazy, but it's just too consistently warm and sunny in Alameda for my taste.  Half Moon Bay was fogged in and misty with a cool breeze.  It felt fabulous to ride along listening to the ocean waves...almost like Home(r).  There's something wonderful about knowing that the same ocean flows all the way up into Kachemak Bay, and the same whales travel between here and there.

But back to the horses.  About the same time that we arrived at the beach path, a guy on a Segway appeared out of nowhere and started taking photos.  It was funny in a completely out-of-place kind of way.  No phones, cameras, bags, etc. are allowed on the ride, so a photographer pops up to take photos along the way.  Which is how we got these (after we paid a pretty penny for them, of course).  Now that we know what to expect, I'm sure we will go back.  Especially if we get another half-price online deal!

The guide stayed with her the entire time

Ava and Gloria

At the bottom of the steep hill to the beach

The bluffs are just beautiful

Riding on the beach

Foggy, cool, and misty...just like I like it