This Thanksgivi…

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for so many, many things. For starters, my husband is here this year, and we have the opportunity to celebrate this holiday together, as a family. And, this morning, he was kind enough to go on a morning horseback ride with me.

Now, I’m not sure if he actually enjoys riding, or if he pretends to enjoy it because it makes me happy, but he’s now gone on two rides with me with no serious adverse effects. I brought Johnny up with us this weekend so I wouldn’t miss out on riding in this beautiful weather. This morning, we saddled up with the daughter of a family friend and took off. Not long into the ride, it was obvious Ryan and his mount were not well-matched. The small gelding was ready to head back to the barn, and he and Ryan were butting heads. I saw immediately was about to transpire, so I jumped off Johnny and grabbed Rebel’s reins. After a few seconds of deliberation, I decided to put Ryan on Johnny, and I would ride Rebel. To put a good image in your head, picture this: Johnny’s in standard hunter/jumper attire, I’m in breeches, half-chaps, and a helmet, and Ryan’s in ACU pants and boots. And, yes, Rebel had on a western saddle, complete with a rebel flag saddle pad. After letting out my stirrups as far as they’d go (knowing they’d still be too short), I gave Ryan a leg up, despite his protesting that I could never get him into the saddle. And, Johnny stood there like a champ throughout the entire process. My OTTB (off the track thoroughbred) stood stock still while my husband, a baby-green novice rider, clumbered into the saddle and into position. Poor Rebel wasn’t quite sure what had just jumped onto his back, but he did suddenly realize he was no longer going to get his way. We had a small argument about which direction we would actually go, but Rebel quickly conceded that he should just say yes ma’am and get it over with.

So, we carried on down the road. I tried to keep my advice to Ryan to a minimum–only mentioning that Johnny was very sensitive to leg and in his mouth and that Ryan should keep things subtle. Meanwhile, I began to work on Rebel’s rebel attitude. I quickly realized that Rebel’s problem wasn’t that he was a bad horse. He was an ignorant and nervous horse. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do, and that weighed heavily on him. He had too much bit in his mouth, so I made sure to keep my hands as soft as possible. We worked gently on settling into a good rhythm and trying to relax. Every now and then, I’d give a glance towards Ryan and Johnny, but there was nothing to worry about. My precious, handsome boy was taking great care of my hubs. That horse is worth is weight in gold, I tell you. He was relaxed and never missed a beat–even though I could tell Ryan was sitting crooked with his legs jammed out in front of him. Johnny carried on–only moving from side to side when Ryan turned around in the saddle to look at me behind him.

By the end of the ride, Rebel had finally realized that I not only knew what I was doing, but that I wouldn’t ask anything that would compromise him. When he started trying to sidepass at a trot down a big hill, I calmly asked him for a shoulder-in. First, a right shoulder-in, then a left. Calmly. Walking. And, then, when I straightened him, he walked very calmly, straightly down the hill. Giving him something to work on was all he needed. And, my dressage instructor would be so happy to know that I sat straight in the saddle without bracing my back. And so, there I was, in my English attire on a western horse in a western saddle, giving him dressage lesson as we rode down a backroad in the country.

And Ryan? He’s got a new-found love for Johnny. He’s even agreed to go ride again tomorrow…as long as he gets to ride Johnny. 🙂

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