One of the problems inherent with living in a horsekeeping community is literally living in a horsekeeping community. Honestly, sometimes I envy those of you who board your horses at a rigidly supervised stable or live with your horses on a ranch out in the wide open country. Then you aren’t constantly rubbing stirrups with other riders who, for lack of a better term, disrupt your horseback riding mojo.
Just in case you’ve had some of the same experiences, I’ve formulated two theories about these wango tango riders. I’m not sure which one is correct. Maybe both are.
A) They honestly don’t mean any harm. No one ever explained to them that running their horse at warp speed is not a good thing, especially not on crowded public bridle paths or up the tail end of another horse that’s casually cruising around an arena.
B) They really don’t care how their riding and the behavior of their horse adversely affects you, your riding and the behavior of YOUR horse. If you can’t control your horse while theirs is zipping around like Zenyatta on crack, too bad.
Want a specific example? Just the other day, my friends Natalie and Julie were riding with me in the public arena behind my house. Natalie was on Dunzy, her grulla gelding who amicably travels in slow motion. Julie was on Junior, her teenaged, semi-retired western pleasure show horse. And I was riding Danny, whose concept of being frisky is typically expressed with nothing more than a brisk trot for three minutes. The three of us were having a good time, chatting while leisurely working our horses through circles and leg yields and side-passes. At some point, we began talking about how much we enjoy working with our horses; even though we trail ride, we also like spending time getting our horses supple and relaxed and listening to our aids. One of us (I’m not sure who) said, “Unfortunately, all you ever see on TV or in the movies are people running their horses at full speed, so that’s what a lot of folks want to do as soon as they get a horse or start to ride. They just want to go fast.”
Right on cue here came a young guy on a half-broke, little gray filly. Her tail was short and stubby, as if it’d been chewed off by another baby in the pasture, and her head was flipped skyward, snubbed in place by the nylon rope tie-down that ran between her narrow front legs. He approached the arena at a dead run, galloping down the long, steep hill, a wake of red dust kicked up by the filly’s heels. He careened around the tight turn without slowing down. When he reached the gate the filly halted splay-legged at the barrier in her path.
Fearing a rodeo, Natalie, Julie and I picked up our reins and headed for the gate to leave. Like a chorus, all three of us said to the guy on the revved up filly, “Wait! Before you come in, just let us get out of here, okay?”
We couldn’t seem to file out of the gate quickly enough. The young man waited politely. In fact, he seemed perplexed that none of us wanted to stay in the arena while he joined us. But our horses, the sedate, mannerly nags that they usually are, were becoming amped up and energized by some kind of hyperkinetic aura emanating from the wiry little filly. She was rigid with anticipation, ready to spring into the arena like a race horse out of a starting gate. That animated our three geldings, so much that they began to lift their tails and arch their necks. Oh joy.
Natalie looked back over her shoulder and said to the guy, “Just please let us get around the corner before you take off, okay?”
He nodded, smiled, and tipped the brim of his cowboy hat. He truly didn’t seem to comprehend that his rowdy riding and his filly’s wild-eyed body language was unnerving our horses. In keeping with his character, however, he slapped the ends of his reins across the gray’s neck and shot into the arena, barely squeezing past us as she bolted forward. We all heard him exclaim cheerfully to his filly, “Come on, Chica! Let’s ride!”
And off they went at the gallop.
And off we went with our horses, each of our geldings a little puffed up at the walk.
See? It’s rarely a dull moment living in a horsekeeping community. But since much of it is beyond my control, I try to make light of a potentially calamitous event. Every now and then, when I see Natalie or Julie on the trails, it’s a contest to see which one of us is the first to say, “Come on, (insert the name of our horse here), let’s ride!”
At the end of the day, I realize that not everyone agrees on the best, right way to ride a horse. Plus, there’s a wide spectrum of what each of us defines as fun, challenging, rewarding or productive when it comes to riding. But I do think that every rider has a responsibility to make their horse’s welfare a top priority. After that, maybe keeping in mind the safety and serenity of other horses and riders might be nice, too.
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