When I was a teenager, this time of year was so exciting. School was ended and we were free to ride horses all day, which was pretty much all that was on my agenda. While Dad finished up the spring planting, we kids would be putting cattle out to pasture and checking on the late-calvers daily. There was so much to do on horseback!
Walking through water can be one of the hardest things for a horse to accept, and his fear is often based on his past experiences. If he’s never seen it before, or if he’s been forced into it or struggled with by a rider over crossing water, then it’s going to be a big obstacle for him to overcome. No matter how much horse experience you have, when you’re working to overcome something like this you have to have a lot of patience and be willing to spend the time it takes to help the horse get past his fear of crossing water.
I’ve been mulling a bit lately, over the horse ownership thing again. I’ve mentioned before that I feel guilty about owning horses and not spending much time with them, aside from feeding time. I confess that it’s been about three months since I’ve ridden….in fact, I can’t even remember the ride at all, or when it was. I have a pretty good excuse for not riding any broncs, though….I’m pregnant with our third child.
Most of us horse lovers have been inspired by horses and riders in the movies at one point or another. Whether it was growing up watching Bonanza or seeing Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken for the first time, those horses and the people who rode them made a big impact on us and deepened our interest in becoming a rider or owning our own horse someday. There are just a few things that have crossed my mind when watching some of the Hollywood-style riding, and wanted to comment for the benefit of the total beginning horse enthusiast.
Last weekend we took our cows out west where I grew up. From here, it’s a four hour ride in a car…a six hour ride for a cattle pot and truck and trailer with seven people packed into the crew cab. Saturday was one long hectic day. But it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time, because to me it meant going home.
I am a writer, and one of my favorite things to do is to tell a good story. I have often said that getting a horse is like getting a brand new notebook. You open it up, and it’s blank….just waiting to be filled in with adventures, experiences, knowledge, sentiment, good memories, colorful adjectives, and whatever else comes your way. So it is when you get a horse….I went for a ride with Cowboy Dad yesterday. We had talked about trailering out to some trails or something, since we had a whole afternoon and warm sunny weather.
Today was amazing. Well, if you don’t count the fact that it’s the beginning of January and still a little cold for my taste. And if you don’t mention that today was my husband’s first time to get bucked off a horse. It was sunny with no wind, a Sunday afternoon, and he said we’re crazy if we don’t go for a horse ride today. So we did. Here’s how it went:
Snow is coming! The kids are excited with the prospects of sipping hot cocoa, listening to Christmas music, and watching the heavens swirl their magical crystals into sparkling drifts over our front steps. I’m not looking forward to doing chores in subzero temperatures, no matter how pretty the snow is. When the water tanks freeze over and I can’t peel the layers of frost-covered hay off of my big round bales to feed my horses, winter isn’t fun anymore. If only we could enjoy the snow without it being so cold…..
It’s that time of year when people like to ponder the good things that have come their way. I see the trend of daily status updates on Facebook, where everyone is counting a blessing along with each day of November, and while it is inspiring to read their grateful comments, I haven’t joined in the fad yet. I have looked at the blank where I’m supposed to type my comment, and ten minutes later I’m still sitting there, overwhelmed with my thoughts….the blank just isn’t big enough. I have so much to be thankful for.
A horse buddy of mine asked the question on Facebook the other day, “What do you do about barn hands?” She wasn’t referring to people you hire to help out around a stable, but rather the calloused and dried out things on the ends of your arms. All of the horse people chimed in with their remedies for this problem, and it was easy to see that if you have horses in your life, your hands will tell the story. Mine are cracked, calloused, dry, and sometimes even dirty….it just comes with the territory of being around horses.
You might be surprised at how often I question my own common sense when it comes to owning horses. We have five now, and that puts both me and Cowboy Dad in a sort of panic to justify the expense and trouble that we go to in order to keep them. I think many of my readers believe that I live on a massive expanse of Western range, complete with howling coyotes and grazing cattle, where I train horses all day, bake my family a luscious dinner in my country kitchen, and ride off into the sunset with the love of my life. Well, I hate to ruin that impression, but to tell it a little more accurately….
Our weanling stud colt is just a handful. I had forgotten what it’s like having a horse this young, but he is certainly a lot of trouble. The main problem is that he has got too much energy and not enough experience. Watching him careen around the farm full-tilt is entertaining until you see him run into something. Owning this colt is like having a teenager who just got his own drivers license and is anxious to demonstrate his skills. It’s exciting, it’s entertaining, it’s often hilarious…..but it’s also scary.
In my quest to provide good advice to my readers, one of my most often incurred questions is how to overcome your fear of riding. While there are millions of people who love horses, a surprisingly large percentage of those people are actually afraid of them. Some are afraid because of a frightening experience in their past, and others have an instinctive fear stemming from an overall lack of experience with horses. Either way, the fear of horses (which has its own scientific term equinophobia or hippophobia), can be helped and sometimes completely overcome.
When I was a kid, my favorite days were the long summer ones when we spent the day horseback. There was always something to do around the ranch…either moving cattle to a different pasture, checking the wells to make sure there was adequate water, or riding colts always prevented boredom from overtaking us. But I can think of some stories when we just had too much time on our hands.
Growing up, the horses that my Dad rode were always the best ones we had. They say wet saddle blankets make a good horse, and that was surely the case with Spider. Of Dad’s string of riding horses, Spider was one of the best. He was a big rangy gray gelding with size and strength and beauty being his best qualities.
We scheduled our trip west this spring so that we would time it right to go along on the big cattle drive up Pass Creek to summer grazing in the mountains. This morning began as every morning does on my parents’ ranch: (my husband would interject, “Slowly!” here—ha ha!) with a big breakfast, a Bible devotional, and some long drawn out discussion about which person is to ride which horse, and what other horses might be taken along in the trailer for substitute mounts, and what horses have been shod and which haven’t