by Linda Benson
Recently, on a quick trip to the Oregon Coast, my husband and I decided to rent horses and ride on the beach. I hadn't ridden for awhile, and it was a beautiful stretch of coastline. The price was only $40, which seemed quite reasonable, so we drove over the night before to check out the horses. They were all fat and shiny and seemed well taken care of, and the tack looked to be comfortable and in good condition. So it was a go!
I rode a big grey horse named Caesar, and my husband got a stout palomino called Texas. Both were big-boned quarter horses that we felt totally comfortable on, and all the horses on the ride, big and small, seemed plumb gentle. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and I loved it. If you're ever on the stretch of the Oregon Coast near Bandon, go check them out: Bandon Beach Riding Stables.
We rode with seven other people plus a guide, and I was there just for the scenery and something fun to do on our short vacation. I've previously ridden on the beach lots of times, and it's fun when you're on your own and with your own horse. But what I enjoyed more than anything this time around was helping a brand new rider get over her fear. There was a young girl who was mounted on a gorgeous little pinto mare, only about 13 hands, but the mare was slow. I could tell she was kind of bored and lagged behind the others, while the young rider began to panic as she couldn't make the little mare do anything. And I related - not to the fear of being horseback - but to the fear of having a moving thing underneath me that I didn't know how to control. (I'm scared of machinery. It's a long-standing joke in my family that I need a glass of wine before attempting the riding lawnmower.)
So I spent much of the time riding beside this young gal, jollying her along, giving her a few pointers, but mostly just staying with her so she wouldn't feel panicked about being in the very back. Because I know how important it is for new riders to have a good time on horseback. (How many people have you talked to in your lifetime who have ridden once, or twice, and never again because they had a scary experience?)
When I see the huge glut of unwanted horses on the marketplace with nowhere to go but the auction (ah, but that is another post entirely) I realize that it's up to us - the horse lovers of the world - to pass on our fascination and love and passion that we have to a new generation. So I found that while I enjoyed the scenery and riding my sweet grey horse, what I most enjoyed was helping a novice horseperson become comfortable in the saddle. Which she did. At the end, I could see the tension leaving her body and I even joked with her that she was developing a relaxed, cowgirl slouch.
I don't get many chances to actually mentor kids on horseback these days. As a writer, I do most of my mentoring through inspiring young readers. In fact, The Girl Who Remembered Horses
2013 eFestival of Words Virtual Book Fair.
And The Horse Jar, one of my first books,
is an inspiring story of a girl working hard to get her first horse, who then must make a difficult choice just when her dreams are within reach.
The Girl Who Remembered Horses is available everywhere as an eBook, and The Horse Jar is published by Mondo Publishing, an educational publisher which sells primarily to schools. But I do have some print copies of each available (including a Spanish edition of The Horse Jar) if you'd rather read paper, so email me: linda (at) lindabenson.net if you'd like a print version.
Anyway, the tile of this post is Mentoring, and I'd like to ask all of you - what have you done lately to spread the love of horses down the next generation? Tell us!