When he was 3, Little A fell off a horse. It was his first time to sit on one, a Shetland pony at a petting zoo not far from home. Big A and I took him to see the animals that summer day, but my son is generally uninterested in those behind bars or glass, preferring ones he can actually interact with, or possibly touch. Part of me wonders if he is against animal cruelty, wanting these creatures to be free.
Since then, he has refused to get back on a pony, preferring to watch them from the sides as they go about their business.
This last trip to the mountains, though, just before summer school started, he wanted Big A to sit him on a horse. We were at a park we always visit to enjoy the fresh air and the scent of pine trees, when Little A spotted a gentle grey horse standing at one side, with his owner, a man of maybe 60 years, standing next to it.
There was a sign that read "Photo on Horseback" and a very reasonable price. Thinking Little A just wanted to touch the horse, like the last time we were in the mountains, Big A picked him up and brought him closer. To our surprise, Little A threw his leg over and sat proudly in the saddle.
He seemed thrilled to be seated on the animal, reaching forward and touching its mane, and then rocking back and forth in the saddle, asking it to move. But this horse had retired from walking the park circuit, and was content to just stand by the tree next to its master.
Naturally, I took photos. Big A stood close by, but Little A was brave, perhaps knowing instinctively that this animal was a very gentle one who had been used to children sitting on its back for years. Luckily, no one else was in the queue for a photo op on horseback, so we took all the time we wanted.
The next day, we took Little A to the place where ponies were for hire, walking a circle or a mountain track. He inspected the horses and sat on one, but wasn't feeling ready to go walking on it yet. So we didn't push it. We know, as with everything else our son does, that he will let us know when he is ready.