I was recently asked by a friend of mine if I would give horseback riding lessons to her two daughters. I have never taken riding lessons, and never given a formal riding lesson. But it sounded like fun to me, so I said “yes”. The girls are beginner riders, and I am a beginner teacher, but fortunately we have two older mares to learn with, and that makes it all possible. We will have our fourth lesson this week, and I have discovered that it is as fun for me as it is for the girls!
Last week we had a special visit from my parents. They drove all the way from Idaho to Iowa pulling a gooseneck trailer with six horses in it, dropping off two at our place, staying overnight and spending the next day with us, then continuing on their way to two other siblings’ homes to deliver the rest of the horses. After 50 + years of ranching, my parents are finally retiring, selling their ranch and cattle, giving away most of their twenty-some horses and mules, and buying a house in town and a travel trailer to enjoy some southern winters and visits to grandkids.
We have reached another milestone in our horse life: we rode Cletus, our four year old buckskin gelding! If you remember, we bought him as a baby alongside his mother, Penny, in the fall of 2011. Last November, we sent him to the Rosebud Indian Reservation for a crash course in behaving under saddle….the trainer raved about him and said he was the best horse he’s ever trained. So then we brought him home and (due to me being pregnant and my husband being very busy) he stood around in our corral for almost another year. The good news is that we have been riding him this summer!
At the end of May, as we try to do each year, our family went west to visit my parents in Idaho. We spent several days with them, enjoying ranch life, mountain-style farming, beautiful scenery and their many horses. The highlight of the trip was the all-day cattle drive up into the mountains, through the Pass Creek notch, over the Summit, and on to Big Creek where the cattle stay for a few months during the summer.
If you grew up around horses and were taught by a parent or riding instructor, the common sense advice in this article might seem a little unnecessary or redundant to you. But even as a kid growing up with horses, there were a few things I learned the hard way! It’s so much better to learn from other’s mistakes, read about it, and make a mental note to never let that actually happen to you or your horse. So I’m sharing some practical tips to avoid accidents and keep you and your horse safe.
I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. Personally, I would rather be honest with myself and not make any outlandish, pie-in-the-sky claims to change immediately or “from now on”. Why set myself up to fail? But I like having an idea, mulling on it, letting it grow, see where it leads, and eventually following through with it. And like a true procrastinator, why should I be in any hurry about it? If it doesn’t ever get followed through with, then it probably wasn’t that good of an idea after all. That being said, I do have a few dreams and wishes for the new year.
As mentioned in a previous post, we recently took our two untrained horses out to South Dakota for training. Due to me being pregnant with our fourth child, the training was going to be postponed for another nine months at least, and we really wanted to see these two colts started as soon as possible. So in October they made the trip out to Mission, SD, to spend at least a month with a horse training family.
The riding part of the Kip Fladland Training Clinic that I went to a few weeks ago seemed to go so much faster than the groundwork part. Maybe it was because I’m not used to that much walking, I don’t know, but I was sure tired out! The morning’s work was good for us, as I think it gave us a really good focus for the riding part to follow.
Fall is my favorite time of year to go horseback riding. I am partial to summer, since I was born in August (my mother has a theory that the season you were born in is the one you like best; for instance, I like being hot, and don’t mind sweating; I hate the cold, and winter is my least favorite season), but summer is often so busy with gardening, vacations, kids’ activities, and things that can only be done in summer. I just never have time to ride in the summer, and so when fall arrives it is such a relief.
Summertime is busy. I love summer, but there is just so much going on, so much garden work to do, so many kids’ activities, so many vacations….nope, I am not complaining! But here it is nearing the end of July, and I finally got my saddle out and dusted it off and discovered that my stirrups were still set long from the last time I rode it…which was back at the first of April when Penny bucked me off! We rode at the end of May in Idaho, but here a month and a half later, my own horses have not been ridden all summer. I am just now finally get back to it!
I was recently asked to write a guest post for Equitrekking.com about the best horseback riding trails in Iowa. They are conducting a 50 State Trail Riding Project, and needed a post for good horseback riding trails in Iowa; so they contacted me to see if they could have permission to reprint my post on the Pierce Creek Trails near Essex, Iowa. I told them “sure”, but that I could do a little better, and I set out on a mission to complete a descriptive guide to my favorite horse riding trails around the state.
We visited my parents in Idaho around the end of May. They live in a beautiful valley in the southeast part of the state where they raise beef cattle, Quarter Horses, and mules. We spent a week out there riding horses, hiking on mountain trails, enjoying their western scenery, and catching up on life among the Lewis family. I took two cameras, and when I got home there were over 700 photos on my memory cards! So this blog post is to share some of the sights I saw, most of them taken from the back of a horse.
We extended our stay in Idaho a couple extra days so that we wouldn’t miss their annual cattle drive where they take their cow and calf herd fifteen miles up into the mountains. It is an all-day event, starting early and ending late, and involves a lot of horseback riding and beautiful scenery. We didn’t want to miss it! All week my sister Karmen and I had been getting horses ready. Karmen put shoes on four horses so that their feet wouldn’t wear out on the rocky trail. I rode Donegal to give her a little refresher so she would be well-adjusted to being ridden again, as my dad was going to ride her on the drive and he is seventy years old and still recuperating from his accident that broke ribs last November. Karmen planned to ride her young mule Garnet, and I was going to take Stormy, the young mare I’d been riding all week.
It’s not often I get to ride three different horses in one day—much less, ride new colts and just-started horses, which is one of my favorite things. I’m in Idaho, visiting my parents and sister, and besides enjoying family time over the Memorial Day weekend and following week, our goal was to put some rides on their colts. They have twenty head in their horse and mule herd, and they are so busy with irrigating their alfalfa fields, putting up hay, and caring for their cattle that training horses gets put off. So I am always anxious to get some horses started or do more riding when we visit
That old Kenny Rogers song came to mind today, as I was thinking over the happenings of my weekend. In terms of horses, you should never be too sure of a horse. Riding horses is always a gamble. There are no sure bets, and you can win or lose with a stroke of luck, good or bad. I always say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbled.” And there’s no predicting it, how events are going to go or what exactly is going to take place. I think the cards were stacked against me in the hand I was dealt on Saturday!
We recently stayed at a swanky hotel in St. Louis where my husband attended a business conference for his work. The kids and I went along just for fun, the thought of spending three days at an indoor-pool-equipped establishment being our main motivation—yes, the long winter is getting to us! While there, my husband got his cowboy boots shined at the shoe-shine station in the lobby. After seeing the transformation from scuffed to gleaming, our son wanted his little boots shined as well. While he sat and got them polished, one of the hotel managers struck up a conversation by asking our son if he had a horse to go with those boots….
You may have heard about the recent study sponsored by Harley Davidson that deducted that women who ride motorcycles are happier than women who don’t. The study was conducted by Kelton, and interviewed 1,013 adult female riders and 1,016 adult female non-riders. “The findings make it clear that riding a motorcycle greatly improves a woman’s feelings of overall self-worth.” I wonder what a similar study would find, if they interviewed women who ride horses rather than motorcycles?
Riding horses is dangerous. So is operating an automobile. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in either activity, but I’d like to point out that when you are around a horse, virtually anything can happen. I’ve seen good horses in bad wrecks, great riders get broken up, and not-very-cautious riders get away with doing some stupid things around horses and get away with it. What we all should keep in mind is that there is great risk involved in riding horses and training horses, and a smart rider will do what he can to protect himself and his horse.
I’m sitting here after a long day, wondering what to write in this post to sum up the very best parts of my day to share on CowgirlDiary.com, and I’m not coming up with a whole lot of words. I went for a horseback ride this evening with JoAnn. It was a beautiful, windy, fall day…the kind of day that just beckons. I stuffed my old camera in the hip pocket of my jeans and away we went. Basically, it was a super fun ride. And the rest, I’ll just say with pictures….