Another post I would have written if we hadn't gone away.
Rachel and Julia had their first riding lesson on Saturday morning! They were so excited, and I was really proud of them. We got to the farm on time, and spent a while grooming Annabelle, the horse that Rachel rode on the lesson. Barbara, the owner of the farm and their instructor, taught us how to put on the saddle and bridles, and explained a bit about the horses (though since we'd been coming there for 4H this spring, she didn't have to explain everything) and then the girls got up in the saddle.
I led Julia on Molly for a while, so she could get used to being up there again, keeping her feet in the proper position, straight back, and learn how to use her heels to get Molly to obey. Rachel rode Annabelle on her own, with Barbara talking to her and correcting anything that was wrong. After a while, Julia got to take the reins and control Molly herself, and I just walked along with them in case I was needed.
What was so great is that Barbara complimented both girls lavishly--she said that she rarely saw beginner riders who remembered everything they had to do, who hardly needed reminding, and who stayed so straight in the saddle. She also said that Julia was a very gentle rider, because she was able to make Molly move (Molly is a bit of a lazybones, which is why the younger kids ride her) and yet didn't use a lot of force to do it. She said it wasn't usual to see kids who hadn't ridden a lot be able to control their horse without kicking, jerking the reins, etc. and that Julia did it beautifully. She even encouraged Rachel to trot, on her first real lesson! I was very proud of them both.
The lesson ran longer than the half hour we pay for (yay!) and then, because she had another lesson after us, Barbara asked us to take Annabelle over to the meadow grass by the ring for a bit so she could eat a while, and then we brushed her down again before we left. It was a lot of fun, and the girls are over the moon!