Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Summer of Zipping my Lip

I've always thought it was important that I let my children live their own lives and make their own mistakes even though sometimes I am just dying to help them. Really help them. I can't help my son much right now as he's off to college, where, he tells me pointedly, he wears shorts and flip-flops to Mass. (I hear, "I still go to Mass.") I still want to give him All The Advice, but since he's 500 miles away I can't make him follow it, and, therefore, might as well spend my time on the phone with him talking about something more interesting, like whether or not Notre Dame has a chance at a title this year.

For my daughter this has been a summer of sitting on my hands. Zipping my lip. Trying not to make her the beneficiary of my wisdom, learning, and awesome scheduling skills. Late last spring, just as her tennis season let up, my daughter decided to attempt her pony club HB and C3 certifications.

I'm not going to throw all the jargon at you. All I'll say is that pony club has seven levels of horsemanship achievement and eight levels of riding achievement. The HB and the C3 are the sixth levels of both areas, and are the first nationally-tested levels. The national tests last two days each.

Let me explain a bit. At the HB, the candidate will be assigned a horse by blind draw. He or she will be asked to assess the horse's conformation in detail, describe any blemishes or unsoundnesses it has or might be predisposed to, discuss anatomy, blemishes and unsoundnesses in general, describe the horse's age based on its teeth, discuss equine teeth in general, make an educated guess as to the breeding of the horse, and, based on its overall age and conformation, suggest various riding disciplines it might be suited for. That would cover two or three sections of the test--there are more than 30.

Now, when club members that I'm not related to are preparing for these exams, I've found it pretty easy to stay out of their business. Sure, I try to help by scheduling prep classes, hauling kids and ponies to clinics, and getting them the resources they ask me for. But I don't ask them if their horse management handbook is up to date--at least, not every day. With my daughter it was more difficult. I could see that she should be studying intestinal parasites instead of playing computer games. I thought she should be working ahead on her conditioning plan. I wanted to tell her to do all the things, my way, on my time, and mostly I kept my mouth shut, but when I didn't she would say, "Mom. My test. Mine."

And I would back off, because she was right.

Our club has a really good reputation right now. Five of our members have attempted national exams; all five have passed. But pony club is really good at letting children fail, which, as I've said before, is something I love about it. Pony club doesn't hand any child anything; the child earns it all. My daughter took her HB exam in late July down in South Carolina, alongside 9 other candidates. There were about 30 sections to the exam, and if she failed five or fewer she could retest just those sections--fail six and she'd have to redo the entire thing. Of the ten candidates at my daughter's test, we know that at least four failed entirely. At least two passed, and at least two had sections to retest.

My daughter passed. She was even the only candidate who wasn't asked to quickly revise some of her paperwork--all hers was correct and complete on the first go. Even that danged horse management handbook.

She's a week out, now, from her riding exam. We'll be hauling her horse six hours to get there. I plan to spend the entire trip with my mouth zipped shut, sitting on my hands--well, metaphorically, since I'll have to drive.