Friday, January 2, 2015

Good Seat? Good Head!

My teenage daughter started riding horses before she was six years old. (In one of those parenting moments of truth, the ones where you set a questionable example, we actually lied about her age — slightly — to get her lessons going a couple of weeks before her birthday. In our defense, she had already been begging for them for nearly three years.) From virtually day one, we heard "She has a good seat."

According to, a rider with a "good seat' (they prefer the term "independent seat"):

• Has body parts that can function independently. Legs can apply rider signals without causing any loss of balance.

• Does not rely on the reins for balance and does not grip with the legs to stay on the horse.

• Can absorb the movement of the horse correctly and therefore doesn't bounce.

• Has correct hip-to-ankle alignment and can easily go from sitting to standing (or vice versa) in the stirrups.

• Can quietly and effectively influence the movements of the horse and stay in balance with the horse.

My daughter inherited many wonderful traits from me. But, her "good seat" ain't one of them. (Basically, they lost me at "stay on the horse.")

I can Google and joke as much as I want, but I'm very proud of my daughter — seat and all. At horse shows, it isn't unusual for a judge or a coach or an experienced rider to come up and compliment her. I may not always understand exactly what is being praised, but I'm still known to swell with maternal pride.

This week, she showed us that she can keep her seat while riding and keep her head in a crisis.

We drive down to New York every New Year's for a second Christmas with my city family and New Year's Eve. (No, if you're about to ask, we do NOT go down to Times Square. No, no, no.) My sister and brother are performing artists and they typically line up something unusual and urbane and utterly fab-u-lous for us.

But, with all this Big Apple fun to look forward to, we more or less dread the drive itself. Fairly long and monotonous on a good day, the ride can be a nightmare during the holidays. Various work schedules kept us from leaving until the morning of the 30th. And, unless we wanted to hit the road before 6:00 am, we had to wait until after Boston rush hour.

"We're leaving at 10:00," I decreed to my daughter.

"Can I ride first?" she asked.

"If you're all packed and back here, showered and in the car by 10:00."

Off she went. I was on a call with an important new business prospect when the text came in.

we went on a trail and S______ fell off i just called ambulance

Okay, you try to sell your ad agency services with that in front of you! Two seconds later ...

so won't be home by 10 sorry

At this point, our estimated time of departure is rather far from my mind. Fortunately, my husband was working from home, so I opened his office door, tossed him my cell and pantomimed "Call her!" I wrapped up quickly.

About two hours later (and about an hour late), she showed up. It turns out that as they neared the end of the trail ride, she and her horse took off cantering toward the stable. (Remember, she has a "good seat.") The other girl's horse got excited and did two "power bucks," the first of which left the girl hanging onto the horse's neck. The second unseated her.

Our daughter acted fast. She circled back and told the girl (who, at this point was lying on the ground, hysterical) to stay where she fell. She called the stable to warn them that the other horse was returning without a rider. She immediately called 911 for an ambulance. Meanwhile, the barn manager called the girl's parents (who, thankfully, live close by) and their trainer. By the time the ambulance arrived (just five minutes later), everyone was on the scene.

"Why didn't you call the ambulance first?" we later asked.

"Because the stable needed to catch the horse and make the other calls."

"How did you know to tell S______ not to try and sit up."

She rolled her eyes. "Everyone knows that."

We were a little over an hour late leaving for New York. My daughter's young friend has four broken ribs and "a tear." My daughter has a good seat.

And a good head on her shoulders.

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