Sunday, July 9, 2006

Horse Sense

One of my new favorite blogs is I Gallop On, for obvious reasons. I love the way she writes, including pictures and videos of her horse adventures. Her philosophy is “horse + woman = energy”, which really speaks to me. I’m finding there is indeed something magical that happens when you put people and horses together, or at least it’s true for me. There are so many components to riding and being around the horses, so much to learn! The learning process in itself is exhilarating, all those connections being made, the “a-ha” moments when my leg is in just the right position at trot and I feel the difference, when I go through the process correctly of putting away the bridle, getting the buckles and straps in the right positions.

One of her recent posts talks about the “generally unspoken conspiracy of horsewomen”, the easy connection between riding and sex. I have to say after my first couple of lessons I felt like I had been rode hard and put away wet. I don’t know about you, but the only other thing I straddle is my husband. I kept thinking -- how do men ride horses? Ahem…anyway --

In 5 lessons I’ve ridden 4 different horses. Generally they try to be more consistent with beginners but circumstances have made that impossible. Willow says she feels confident enough in my abilities to put me on almost any horse, which is a huge confidence booster. Keep in mind that all of their horses are voice-command trained and extremely gentle, but still, I’ve only been doing this for about a month.

It was quite hot during my last lesson and my horse kept wanting to slow down in the shady part of the ring (which seemed reasonable!). Willow told me I needed to anticipate this and ask him to speed up before he slowed down too much. When he wasn’t responding to my still-weak “clucks” she told me to kick him. I couldn’t do it. She kept saying, “No, you need to kick him!” and when I finally did, of course, he responded, but I felt terrible. When I told D the story he said, “Well, there’s some personal growth right there.” My fear of confrontation and empathy for the horse was preventing me from doing something that was completely appropriate.


  1. Yup, we all could do a bit more kicking. I know I should.

    I had an older friend who wanted to take up horseback riding. Instead of doing that directly, she required month of physical therapy to get the spread she needed for the straddle. In the process, all I could do was wonder about her poor, deprived husband. Seems he should have done a bit more kicking, in my opinion, anyway.

  2. I'd have a hard time kicking the horse, too, Donna! It's been hot up there, too, huh? I've been miserable down here in Southern Cal.

  3. hi Donna, Thanks for your nice words about I Gallop On!

    As warm and fuzzy and nice as I think horses are, you do need to be firm with them. After all, that's a big animal you are working with, and the bottom line is that you want to be safe and have an agreeable horse. And horses can spot a novice from a mile away! Herd animals, they need to respect you. Some will not try any tricks, others will. (My children's first pony, a 20+ year old Pony of the Americas comes to mind!). There are times when you need to give your horse a correction. And the correction your instructor asked you to give your horse (a kick) sounds fair under the circumstances. You always want to make it easy for the horse to do the right thing and uncomfortable/difficult for him to do the wrong thing, so then he'll be successful. That little kick made it uncomfortable for him to stand in the shady place in the arena. Sounds like he learned that it's more comfortable to not do that!

    Sure, you want your cues/aids to the horse to be as quiet and subtle/elegant as possible. You know how those really good riders make it look like they're sitting there and doing nothing? I tell my kids that they should ask politely always, whispering, if you will, to the horse when asking him to do something. But occasionally, a shout may be required!

  4. Thanks for stopping in at my site. I will read through some of yours soon!

    It sounds like you are having fun riding - before long you will be a pro.

    Another great blog that reminds me of yours (pics etc) is Check Deanna out.

    I'll be back!

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