Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pity Party for One, or, Is this what addiction feels like?!?

So my third riding lesson was scheduled for today at noon- and I woke up SO excited! Like, so excited I wanted to put on my new boots at 8am and wear them for the four hours leading up to my lesson like an over-zealous 5 year old headed to Disneyland.

But, alas, it was not to be. My instructor woke up sick, (it's been going around), and she re-scheduled for Thursday, since Thursdays or weekends are the only days we have that work together. BOOOOO!

So, instead of telling you about my third lesson, I'll tell you why I chose this particular stable to teach me the ways of the equine.

I searched for about a year for the right stable (and the sufficient amount of courage) before I chose one. My criteria were simple:

1. Be close to my house. I didn't want to drive more than 30 minutes one way to get to a stable. Seeing as how we live in a rural area, this isn't an insane requirement. However, about 40 minutes away, there's a huge concentration of stables, riding trails, and fancy equestrian centers. Nice, but if I could find someone closer to me, it's a plus.

2. Not be snooty. I know there are some people in the horse-world, as with ANY hobby or focus that think they're better than anyone else. And some of them may be right. But seeing as how I'm a complete novice, I didn't want to feel like an idiot for not knowing where the withers of a horse are. (I know now! It's the bump that makes up the highest part of their back right between their shoulders.) I wanted someone laid back, relaxed, and willing to teach someone the very very basics. Without insulting me.

3. Have a nice facility. I'm 32, not 12. I've been around and worked in numerous small animal veterinary hospitals to know there are good and bad facilities regarding animal care. Also, I've been an adult long enough to have the common sense of what's nice and what's ghetto, whether it's shopping for a house, or looking for a great burrito. I know (unfortunately) that there are people out there that see animals as nothing more than property, and treat them as such. I wanted a place that was kept neat and clean, and seemed to genuinely care for their horses.
I didn't need to be at the newest stable, with the fanciest name or fanciest horses, just wanted someplace comfortable.

4. Be affordable. Okay, okay, I have already learned, horses are NOT a cheap hobby. That part I understand. But, seeing as how this was a long harbored dream, I didn't want to spend alot on lessons only to fall out of love with it. Also, I understand that the cheapest isn't always the best, and kept that in mind. Affordable doesn't always mean cheap. To me, affordable means, "worth the price asked, with equal amount or more of value returned". Basically, I didn't want to pay someone $85 a lesson for basic information. It's not like I'm specializing, like dressage or anything. Also, I knew that "a new trainer taking on anyone willing to pay", for $15 bucks a lesson wasn't necessarily the best value either.

5. Someone with lesson horses who could accommodate a big girl. This isn't a surprise to any horse people out there, but to the non horsey people, alot of folks put weight limits on their horses for people. This is fine if the horse has a weak back, or is smaller, or physically unable to bear alot of weight, but to have a general "175 lb or under" policy to me is unfair. There's even some horse vacations that you can take, and even there, they have that 175 lb or under policy. What about really tall muscular men who weigh more than 175 lb? No cowboy ever weighed more than that??
So, I wanted to speak with the instructor about this subject, which I'll admit, made me uncomfortable, but I knew I needed to be honest about my size before letting the instructor assume I was under a certain weight.

Now I'm sure that some people will have opinions on whether my criteria are valid or not, and I wouldn't be averse to hearing them. 

I chose Allison Acres.

Here's why:

1. Great location, really close to my house. Also, this ranch has been in business for quite a while- so that experience in teaching was there.

2. Her website was laid out with lots of info, lots of pictures, and didn't seem overly snooty, and also wasn't too messy with flash, noise, or annoying backgrounds with neon green text.

3. Her prices are fair and clearly set up in list form. There is no question as to how much anything will cost, and anyone who says "email for pricing", while they may seem upscale, just seems snobbish and closed off.

4. She made me feel at ease with her frontpage quote "For the new-comer to horses, we can teach you all you need to know to start on a safe, rewarding journey into horsemanship.   If you want to purchase a horse eventually or have already purchased a horse and just want some guidance, we are happy to help out!"
This gave me confidence to contact the stables. 

5. My initial visit to the stables- any horses that were in the stalls were quiet, alert, and healthy looking. I know, I wouldn't really know alot about what constitutes a good healthy horse and what doesn't, but anyone can see if a horse is thin, has dull eyes or a snotty nose, or is just all out miserable. Also, there was no smell, no piles of crud anywhere, everything was clean, and I immediately felt comfortable being there. 

6. My instructor has no problem with "big girls", and we talked clearly about what I was expecting, how much I weigh, and she assured me that she had several lesson horses that wouldn't have a problem with my size. 

7. This facility meets my goals. As of right now, I want to learn to ride. I want to develop confidence around horses, become sufficient in handling horses, and have fun, in the arena or on trails. I may or may not want to compete in various things later, but I haven't been grabbed by anything yet. So if I decide to learn dressage, barrel racing, or how to stand on the horse while he runs in a circle, I'll re-evaluate my choice. But for now, it's a fit!

Sheesh, I'm missing those silly horses. Hopefully I'll have a lesson to blog about soon, because I'm feeling the pain of withdrawal!!

Here, check out one of Leonardo DaVinci's sketches...

No comments: