Horseback Riding

In “A Game of Shadows,” Sherlock Holmes said that horses “were dangerous at both ends and crafty in the middle.”

I never had reason to disbelieve him. I never felt the need to ride. It’s the 21st century–horses are so 19th century.

However, for Kel’s (my wife) birthday, I agreed to go riding. She has been riding regularly since 2009, and she’s very good at it. Earlier in the year, I watched her take a barrel racing lesson and was impressed. She likes speed, and had handled a gallop after running around the three barrels as if she was born to it. A few months ago, she won a little money in Winchester for pole bending.

At first, she and her instructor (Fareed) thought to put me on a horse named Apache. You’d think a beginner’s horse would be named something like Buttercup but apparently not. Name aside, they use Apache for kids lessons, so I wasn’t concerned. Much.

As it turned out, I ended up on the horse (named Hank) that my wife usually rides. He does kids’ lessons too as well as barrel racing, pole bending, and roping.

After Dani, Fareed’s assistant, tacked up Hank, my first task was to get atop the horse. Because of my height, I didn’t need a mounting block like my wife. Left foot in the stirrup, it was like getting on a bike, except as I flopped my right leg over, the “bike” started to move sideways. Not so much like a bike. A little disconcerting, but I was in the saddle, and I had a firm grip on the horn, one I maintained the entire time.

In the indoor arena, Fareed and Kel had me walk Hank while giving me the basics of starting, stopping, and turning using the reigns and my legs. Hank had done this so often, he didn’t need much encouragement to accomplish what I wanted.

We walked (you’ll see walk a lot–that’s all that I was going to have Hank do) outside. I ducked low to clear the sliding door. To get into the field proper, we had to go downhill. Walking, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Atop Hank, it looked challenging. As Hank started down, I felt as if my body wanted to flop over Hank’s head. I leaned back and made sure the reigns were loose, so Hank had the freedom to do what he needed.

For a half an hour, we walked along the treeline of field, for a time bordering Goose Creek. The day was beautiful, low humidity and not too hot. The entire time, Kel, Fareed, and I took it easy, chatted, and sometimes avoid overhanging branches. The first couple of time, I ducked and dodged. As we continued, though, I guided Hank so as to go around them.

Back at the hill, we started up. This time, it didn’t look daunting. I leaned forward a bit, and Hank had us up in no time. We went back in the arena. Out of habit, Hank went to the railing. Fareed asked if I wanted to get off or keep riding. I opted to ride more as Kel cantered and eventually galloped around us.

I knew she wouldn’t pass up the opportunity for speed. To tell the truth, she looked good, real good, riding at a gallop. I could tell she was having a blast!

After removing the tack and washing the horses, Kel turned out the horse she rode. Then, we turned out Hank. His field is a bit farther away, so we had a bit of a walk. I asked and Kel let me handle Hank’s guide rope. In his field, I removed his halter, and we were off to lunch!

All in all, I had a good time. It was a wonderful experience, one I may do again.

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