Welcome to our new blog – From Where I Sit. We’ll be presenting views on our relationships and experiences with horses and how they’ve shaped our lives.
To give you a bit of background about me, I’ve been around horses for about 44 years. My first real horse experience was hanging out with a neighbor’s retired New York City Police horse. Gambit was an amazingly patient teacher (as was his owner). I spent hours grooming him, petting him, watching him graze and just being with him. I was fortunate enough to start my riding on him – it was a wonderfully positive experience.
The first horse I owned, O’Malley, was a working cow horse from North Dakota. My Dad found her for me at a dealer’s barn. When the dealer asked if I rode English or Western, I told him English. He then regaled us with wonderful tales of this horse’s history as the perfect English mount. Turns out the day I tried her was the first time she’d ever been in English tack – she’d only arrived from out West a few weeks previously – but we didn’t discover that till much later. We logged hundreds of miles on trails and went on to compete in 4-H and United States Pony Club competitions very successfully for years. She was indeed the perfect English mount and the perfect first horse.
I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful years as an owner, rider, trainer and instructor – those first encounters with horses gave me a secure and safe base to carry with me.
One of the things which always makes me sad as an instructor is when I hear tales from people, typically adults, who would love to ride, but were terrified during a first experience with horses. Often, the traumatic event happened at a friend’s house or on a group trail ride. “The horse just turned around and ran back to the barn”, or, “The horse seemed to know I was nervous, which just made me even more afraid” are common themes. Along with an finding end to hunger and achieving world peace, one of my dream goals is for everyone to have a positive first encounter with horses.
If riding instructors and trail guides want their clients to have a positive first experience with horses, (which can then lead to a lifetime of positive experiences), teaching a bit about the horses’ nature should be as important as teaching the rider the basics of position and use of the aids. Explaining that the horse is a prey animal and showing the horse’s field of vision can go a long way to helping the new rider have a bit of an understanding of why the horse may do what he does; and that little bit of understanding can lead to a greater sense of confidence.
Although the old saying goes, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, in this instance, even a little knowledge can help people enjoy their initial experiences with horses. Who knows – they may become lifelong horse lovers, not to mention repeat customers. So, the next time you encounter a novice – take a few minutes to give them a little bit of wisdom on the nature of horses. You already have the gift of loving and understanding horses – wouldn’t that be a great gift to share?