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Monday, February 1, 2010

Horseback 101

We just had some new trails cut through our property. The Farmer could hardly wait to get on his ATV and see how things are faring on the back 40. He checked for deer prints, coyote markings, and beaver dams. I kept thinking that I wish we could ride the horses back there to check things out. Maybe next year.
Our daughters complained a bit when we bought Ashley and Misty, because the horses have never been broken. At first I thought that meant they had never been ridden. I now know it means more than that. It means they don’t speak the language. At all.
Well, I guess I shouldn’t hold it against them because I don’t speak it either. I don’t know how to communicate with a horse. We all need to go for reprogramming.
I already have someone picked out to break and train our two wild girls. He comes very highly recommended, in all the horsey circles we’ve dared to stick our noses into. I would like to send the horses to school this spring, so that we can potentially ride them this summer and fall. Is that crazy thinking? Perhaps. We will soon find out. The horses are 8 and 10 years old. If they typically live 25 to 30 years, I figure they are 24 to 30 in people years now. They are set in their ways. Are they too old to train?
While we are making plans to have the horses broken, we thought we might get ourselves more familiar with the beasts. So I called up Turnout Stables and asked Deb Williams to give me and the Farmer a riding lesson on Sunday morning.
To her credit, she didn’t laugh.
I grew up down the road from the Williams, and they were nice enough to let my sister and I ride their horses way back then. We rode the mares and the ponies up and down Abbott Road and through the quarry that is now Oxford Heights subdivision.
But that was about 25 years ago.
I was not altogether convinced that I would get the Farmer to agree to this adventurous mission. But he agreed he most of all required a more thorough introduction to the world of horses. So we arrived at the barn and got ourselves introduced, to Trinity and Abby.
Bear with me here. I am learning the language, one word at a time. The school horses are mostly standardbreds, meaning they are “an animal of an American breed of light trotting and pacing horses. They are bred for speed and noted for endurance.” We were depending on the light trotting and pacing, and hoping they had lost a bit of speed over the years. The Farmer was assigned to Trinity, who proved to be a bit lazy. This suited him just fine because, as he often says, he’s been “on three horses and off two”. He tends to be a bit nervous around them and he has to get over that. I’m the opposite. I’m so comfortable around the horses, I tend to be a bit stupid. I haven’t been kicked yet, but I’m learning that some horses don’t like their noses touched, or their tails combed, or to have someone standing in their blind spot. But I haven’t learned the hard way yet, so that’s a good thing.
We climbed up on a step-stool to mount our horses, from the left. I noticed the saddles are placed from the left, and the horses are led from the left. Apparently this custom leads back to the days when soldiers wore their battle swords on the left. They had to keep their horse on their right so as to avoid equipment disaster. But I have heard that horses should probably be trained to accept riders mounting from either side, for the comfort and convenience of the rider.
Once on our mares, we were told to squeeze our calves against the horse’s side, to make her step forward. I did, and it worked. I also think my horse understood the verbal commands that Deb was giving, because she was often on her way before I followed through with the actions. This was fine with the walk, not so great when I switched to a trot. She was already trotting when I gave the command, which made me lurch and then start giggling uncontrollably. I felt like a complete idiot. But I hung on.
Wanting to slow the horse down a bit, I squeezed my feet against her again. She took that as a kick and went a little faster. Oops. Whoa! And she stopped. On a dime. I stopped myself from falling forward and looked over at the Farmer. He had a bit of a worried expression on his face, and he was shaking his head at me. It’s hard to take him seriously in his helmet, however, so I started laughing again. After an hour of ring work, walking, stopping, trotting and walking again, my horse started charting her own course, right through the middle of the ring. I had to learn to correct her, and soon we were communicating. I was very proud of myself. And proud of my Farmer too, because he even got his old lazy mare up to a trot.
So lesson one was a great success. So far, so good. Next step, breakin’ the Belgians.

1 comment:

馬來西亞 said...