I was half expecting to get let down today but I’m so glad to report I didn’t. The sun was shining, I was ready to rock and roll and go and hang with mum’s friend’s horses this morning. She picked me up around 11:45 and we headed up to her stables which are not far from where I live.
Upon getting out, she handed me a schooling whip to use to get around. I’d never thought to take the cane but she said it was good as it’d only get full of mud. She had me walking up and down the passage way that runs between her one paddock and stables and the tack and food room and a few other stables. It’s very narrow in places and uneven ground so the schooling whip come cane came in very useful. I walked up and down a few times, saying hello to the chickens and ducks and then went to talk to her daughter who is a few years younger than me while she mucked out.
A young girl who helps out and a little girl from up the lane wanted to ride Amber, a smaller pony so I was given a brush along with the other two to brush this sweet little pony who I am told can be a real brat.
Mum’s friend, we’ll call her M, was mixing up the feed buckets to take to the top field. As I understand it, there are three fields, top, middle and bottom and then there’s a paddock in where one set of stables are. Most of her horses live out but two of them, the little pony and a huge gentle giant, who is lame due to a leg injury have been living in the paddock and by the stables so the bigger horse can get rest. He’s a handsome guy and I love him to pieces.
We drove up to the top field, and I’ve never heard horses talk but I swear they were all saying, feed me, feed me when we got out of the car with the food buckets. When we drove back down, we parked the car near the bottom field and got out and walked to the top field to get the horses we were going to ride. The sun still shining, walking along the field, I felt so happy and relaxed.
I did something then, I never thought I’d do on someone else’s horse and I rode bare back from the top field down to the bottom. Katie, the horse I rode, who is a cross shire with a cob, is very calm and sweet. But it was the weirdest feeling getting on a horse with not only no stirrups but no saddle. M gave me a leg up, and on the second time I was sat astride this gentle giant’s back, with nothing but her mane to hold onto. It is a very disconcerting feeling to begin with. I was sliding all over the place and felt so wobbly. I really didn’t like it at first but I said nothing and stuck with it.
I jumped off at the bottom, having been lead, I should have pointed out and was given brushes to brush her up, ready for tacking up. I did a bloody good job too, I must say.
Once we’d finished, M went to put her saddle on and the girth strap wouldn’t fit, it was the wrong girth strap. I guess they don’t keep them attached for whatever reason. She apologised a bit and I was non plussed, just wondered if I’d still be allowed to get on her. She was bridled up and we went to the lane part and here’s the funny bit. Try mounting a horse, blind folded, with no idea where to leap to. The grass banking we used as a mounting block was super slippery with the mud on my boots, and M had to come around and somehow, we hoisted me across Katie’s back and I swung my leg over and back on her back I was.
I never realised until today that bare back almost means riding on the horses’ neck, It feels so strange sitting there and when they move, even that little more weird. I picked up the reins, and I held onto a rope around her neck to give extra security which I was glad of. Walking up the hill, I felt weird, and when we got to the top and turned around, and headed down, I was like, oh, shit! I am going to fall off this horse. She wasn’t responsive to my whoa or pull back at first but overtime we got there and she began listening and responds well to half halts and steady girl. At the bottom, we turned around again and headed up. She was much faster in walk this time and I felt slightly more comfortable, continually conscious of muscles being used I’m not used to being used during riding. On the descent down the lane, I felt more secure and comfortable with her speed.
At the bottom, I was asked, did I want to ride her up to the field, baring in mind that she probably would run when she got close to home. I decided, why not? Worse thing that could happen would be Marie lands face first in some grass. So off we went, through the bottom and field at a nice walk behind the other horse. However, halfway across the first field, Miss Katie decided she was going home faster and started to trot, I said whoa and pulled her back, but of course, Katie thought I meant, “Canter? OK!” And off we went. Me thinking, trotting wouldn’t be bad as it would mean I could exercise muscles to assist with sitting trot but I was definitely not expecting a canter from her. I woad her again and pulled on her rein, tightening my legs around her shoulders and she slowed to a trot and eventually a walk. In truth though, I loved it!
M asked if I was OK once I got her stopped and she opened the gate to the middle field, I said I was absolutely fine, with a huge grin on my face, she said, fine, go ahead, let her go if you’re comfortable but whoa her if you’re unhappy. So we walked again and when she started to trot, I allowed it, and then she broke into a lovely canter again. The funniest thing is, I just stayed in the exact place I had been on her, I sat up straight and I loved every moment of it. Sure, it’s not the schooling sessions that I do want but it’s another kind of experience that was unbelievably amazing! Cantering across a field with nothing but me and the horse, doing our own thing, sun beating down on us, such a feeling I cannot describe. Katie knew where she was going and she knows she usually has a fun run back to her field so who could blame her and she just knew I was itching to have an adventure today. I think she also knew I was more than capable and who knows, over time what she and I will get up to. Loved riding this pretty girl today and hanging with all the cool horses.
After dismounting outside the top field, I patted her and thanked her and we trudged back over the fields to the car. M says, if you can ride bare back, you can ride a horse in her book. Well, I walked, trotted and cantered today across lovely countryside. Of course I still want to learn but this could be a more fun way of hacking for me. I fell in love with riding bare back today but would be interested to see how Katie is under a saddle too. I kind of felt my legs were rubbish today. It’s strange how for the past two years I’m taught to pull legs back and keep heels down and that kind of goes all out of the window with bare back riding. I’m super glad I have experienced it though now and wouldn’t be opposed to doing it again!
I’ve been told I can go up whenever I like, just call and let her know. I think I certainly will. And in time, may be able to help out more. The idea by giving me the schooling whip come cane today was to give me independence and to help me learn the layout, it was a clever idea and one I hope will help me be useful and learn so much more.
Had a few cuddles with the little and big ponies in the paddock before leaving and then headed home with mud, slight sun burn on the face and achy muscles but in a very happy mood. I loved it! My experience up there and hopefully lessons soon, might make me a crazier person than I already am. Not once today was I afraid, just nervous of slipping off but think I got that bare back riding thing down in the end. Funniest thing was, while trotting and cantering, my posture was so good, how crazy is that?
Here are some photos.
Thanks for reading and sorry if quality isn’t good or the pics are crap, took them myself.