Between weather and busyness, we haven’t been riding a lot for the last month. Maybe twice a week at best. The occasional trail ride or beach ride, mostly short rides in our riding ring. The picture above was taken when we rode to the Lookout over a month ago (the view past Sunny’s ears is of Monterey Bay).Yesterday we went up to my uncle’s place to help gather the roping cattle for the first practice roping this spring. That was a blast. But overall, we haven’t been doing much. At times I feel almost guilty, as if I “ought” to be doing more with the horses. I turn them out most days to graze, and the horses seem perfectly happy. I enjoy our short relaxing rides when I get them, and both Sunny and Henry behave well and move out freely. But some sort of Puritan work ethic makes me feel bad about not doing more, or I hear about what someone else is doing with their horse and I am envious (that’s the bad thing about these horse blogs—you can always read about someone who is doing much more with their horses than you are doing with yours). I really know better than this—but I still fall into these traps. And then I got a reminder of what its really all about.
Last week we had a little boy over to visit who had never been to our place before. He’s part of my kid’s homeschool group, and a very sweet, smart, interesting child. I’ll call him Sam. Anyway, as I usually do, I offered Sam a chance to ride a horse (with his mother’s permission). Sam had never ridden a horse before and was very excited.
I have a simple protocol for this. Kids are only allowed to ride Henry, my son’s bombproof gelding. And they must wear a helmet. We all go down to the barn and I catch and saddle Henry, explaining to the kid how to “be” around a horse. No running, no shouting, don’t approach the horse from behind, listen to me and do what I tell you at all times…etc. Henry is actually proof against most anything, but I want to teach the right behavior. My kid models brushing the horse and our visitor gets to brush him, too.
Then I put my son on Henry and he rides his horse up to the riding ring and demonstrates a little walk, trot, lope. The visiting kid stays with me and I point out just what my child is doing to control Henry. If the kid seems keen, and Sam was, I put the visitor up behind my son on Henry (if they’re small enough) and let them walk around like that so they can get used to the feeling of being on a horse without thinking about anything else. And then I ask them if they want to ride by themselves.
Sam was very eager to do this. I legged him up on Henry, helped him put his feet in the stirrups (which have tapaderos—very important), and showed him how to hold the reins. I explained how to steer Henry, how to get the horse to move. I told Sam to hang on by the horn, not by the reins or his heels—under all circumstances. Sam’s face was bright, eager and attentive. And off we went—with me at the end of the long, slack leadrope, walking along beside him.
This is how I give kids their first ride. Henry has done it many times and knows what I am up to. He knows he’s supposed to obey the kid on his back—that I’m just there for backup. And this is important, because though Henry is safe, he is not above walking over to a patch of grass and putting his head down—which is way more than any first time kid rider can cope with. So I make sure this doesn’t happen.
Anyway, I’m following Sam along and I look up to see how he’s doing. And you never saw such a lit up face. He was positively incandescent with delight. “Do you like it?” I asked.
“This is so much fun! Its so cool just to be here on his back, looking past his ears. Its great!”
Well, I grinned and we went on, but his words stuck with me. Because I feel the same way. To this day, even when I’m so busy that I hardly have time to ride, when I do climb on my horse just to walk him around the ring or go for a brief trail ride, I have that exact emotion. This is so much fun. Just being on the horse’s back, looking past his ears at the world ahead. Feeling him carrying me along. Even if I do nothing but walk around my riding ring for ten minutes. I just love it. I hope I always feel this way.
And I realized (yet again), that its time to let go of comparing myself to others and worrying about what I “ought” to do, and simply take pleasure in the joy that horses bring me. If puttering around my riding ring on Sunny’s back looking at the roses on a spring day contents me, that’s great. Same for gathering the roping cattle and going on a short trail ride with my son. Not very exciting stuff by some standards, maybe, but if it brings me joy then its good for me. I need to remember this (!)
So today, in honor of Sam’s words, here are some recent photos showing the view from Sunny’s back, looking past his ears.
On a spring trail ride, along a rather overgrown trail.
Looking across the big meadow—gathering cattle at my uncle’s place.
On the beach, looking at my son on Henry and our friend, Wally, on Twister.
At the Lookout last fall. My kid is resisting having his picture taken.
Looking down at Sunny.
How about you guys? Do you love those “ear views”, too? And do you, like me, get sucked into guilt and envy in your “horse life” more often than you would like?