The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


When I was a lass, here's what they said about catching a horse in the field:  you should go up to it with the halter behind your back, and then when the horse is distracted, you slip the rope around its neck, and then put the halter on.

Nowadays I take a different approach.  I go up to the horse with the halter clearly visible and say:  "Hey, horse, here's a halter.  Whaddya think?"

No need to be duplicitous or sneaky.  It only makes the horse sneaky back.  The transition from not-wearing-the-halter to wearing it should be smooth, agreeable and mutually consensual.  When I show Bridget the halter, she always says, "Treats first!"  After treats, she says "Scratches next!"  And then she'll agree to wearing the halter so she can go for an expedition.

It should be the same with mounting I think.  The transition from being on the ground with the horse to being with it on its back should be seamless.  Without that awkward moment of "holding" the horse still, or hopping around, or arguing about positioning next to the mounting block.

I've been hearing a lot lately that a feeling of something being not quite right usually means something isn't quite right. The not-quite-right feeling I have about riding is not concerned with actually being on the horse but with the moment of mounting. It's a feeling that for that moment, you have to capture and control the horse.  Before that moment, there was a dialog; after that moment, the dialog resumes.  But during that moment, you have assumed unilateral control.

I think, too, the paraphernalia of riding gets in the way - the saddle with the potential to slip, the stirrups, the mounting block.  Somehow even the kicking and scrambling and grabbing of hair with my old pony was not as intrusive as all that man-made equipment.  I envy people like Hempfling who can lithely vault onto their horses.

I've owned two horses in my life who would let you climb on their backs while they were out at liberty in a field, both horses who didn't hesitate to let you know if something displeased them.  Not being very dainty or athletic, I used to haul myself up onto my first pony's back by grabbing handfuls of his winter coat on the far side of his back. (This was after knowing him for several years!) You didn't have to be diplomatic or sneaky - you could be up front. You had the feeling, standing beside him, that there was no barrier to climbing onto his back, that it was ok.

If I'm going to continue riding, I need to have that feeling.

I have faith that it will work out in the end.  The only way I can really keep up with my horse is to be on his back. I want to be there.  It may take a long time, the riding we do may not fit into any recognizable category, and I don't have a plan of how to achieve it - but I hope.

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