Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Life With Horses : Part 1 - The Early Years

I've decided to write a little series about my 25 years living with horses, since they shape so much of my life.

Usually when the weekend rolls around, my friends asks me to come visit, go out for the night, spend the night and go drinking or to go away for a few days.

About 50% of the time, I have to sigh and reply "I can't. I have to make sure the horses are fed tonight, and someone will have to feed them in the morning" or "No one will be able to take care of the horses while I am gone".

If it's the summer, particularly in August, I grimace as I say "Can't. I have a horse show". Horse shows typically are on the Sunday and take all day Saturday to prepare. It also means an early night, so staying out isn't much of an option.

As I was preparing to get ready for a horse show today, I started to think about how I feel about horses, and the horse shows in general. But none of that would make any sense to anybody unless they knew the full story.

As far back as I can remember, we lived on a farm, and we had horses. My mom owned horses before she was married to my dad, and before she had us. When my brother and I were born, she had one horse, an elderly chestnut Morgan mare named Kelly. When my mom went out to do the chores, she would throw my brother and I on Kelly's back and the old mare would just stand there. We would bounce around, making animal noises to scare her into moving but she never moved. Sometimes she'd walk for a short distance but that was it. Later in life I would try to ride her with a saddle, and ended up having the saddle slip underneather her as she took off towards the barn, and I ended up falling in the mud.

When I entered kindergarten, my mom had made a new horsey friend who raised Arabians. My mom bought a grey Arab named Nytelyte off of her, in hopes of breeding. At first she bred to an Arabian, then to a Conemmera, and then to a welsh pony (which becomes important down the line). The horses sat in the yard and did nothing for the longest part. Our horses were Kelly, Nytelyte, Highlyte, Starlyte, and Budlyte (weren't we clever?).

Eventually my parents decided their house and property were too small. We moved to a nicer, bigger horse and a fabulous farm. It had a horse barn with 9 stalls, with cross ropes in the cemented hallway. It was attached to an ugly cowbarn that we stored our hay and straw in. We had two hayfields, and three paddocks and a riding ring that could also be used as a paddock. The only downfall of this place was its lack of an indoor ring.

Before we moved, my mom enrolled me into riding lessons. Instead of letting me hop up on a horse and wander where ever I wanted, I needed discipline and to learn the real techniques of riding. My mom started taking me to riding lessons at a dressage barn by a very well known dressage rider in the area.

I had two instructors. For one part of the lessons I was with one, then the other took over for the last half. I rode an old chestnut riding pony that went by the name of Babe.

I hated riding lessons. I was put up on the horses, and lead around for the most part. I was told to keep my hands in a 'box' while I rode, and to not move them. To me, this meant they couldn't jiggle at all, which I thought was impossible. I was always riding on the lounge line, with someone holding on. Everytime we troted, I was told to do a sitting trot, which is the hardest thing to do. Most people do rising trots, as it's easier on your ass and the horses' back insteas of you bouncing around like an idiot. It's hard and uncomfortable, but to be able to do it is a sign of a good rider. Or a horse with a very comfortable trotting gait.

Eventually, I was tired of lessons and my mom decided it would just be better to just buy me a pony and let me muck around by myself. She bought Babe and we brought her home. My brother and I would have our friends over and we'd ride her around the yard.

When my parents bought their new farm, the previous owners left behind two old ponies for us. Sugar and Tony were two shetland ponies of undetermined age. My brother and I would put lead chains on their halters and ride them bareback. Sugar was a nasty little pony who used to try and buck me off but she helped me learn the basics of riding.

Me riding Sugar, without a saddle, a bridle and a helmet haha.

I can't really remember what happened to Babe, but Tony and Sugar were sold, despite my brother and I's protest. My mom was moving into another stage of her horsey life. She found another riding school for me, one that I loved and went to for 7 years. My mom signed me up for Pony Club when I was seven, around the same time.

It was also around this time that my mom started getting interested in welsh ponies... which is the next chapter in my horse saga.

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