1. Windy Days Give Riders Anxiety. If you have never ridden a horse before, then you might not understand why windy days cause riders anxiety. But if you are a rider, then you get it completely. Windy days are scary because they provide nearly constant opportunities for your horse to spook. It might be an object moving in a terrifying way, like a bag blowing in the wind, or a tumbleweed taking flight, or a leaf scuttling across the ground. The sights are frightening enough, but the sounds might be even worse to your equine. With the wind blowing, a horse cannot hear the approach of predators as he normally would; so on windy days, he will be hyper-vigilant. That’s why he might bolt at the slightest sound. It’s possible he will spook at something you cannot hear, and you probably won’t have any warning. This is how horses have survived for thousands of years, and there isn’t much we can do about that. Just use the indoor ring and take it slow…
2. Riding Bareback is Easy. Indeed, you might think that riding without a saddle is difficult. I did too. When my riding instructor first removed my saddle, I was nervous. But as my horse walked on, I was surprised by how comfortable I was. Without stirrups to use, my legs hung long and gripped the horse securely. Plus, gravity was my friend; even during the bouncy trot, I felt pretty safe. If my horse had bolted (which he didn’t), then there was always the mane to grab onto. In short, bareback riding is easier than you think.
Now, this isn’t to say that beginners should ride bareback. If you don’t have an instructor around, or if your mount is temperamental, then don’t risk it! Better safe than sorry, right?
3. Going Fast is Easy. Again, riding fast is easier than you might think. If you ever had a pony ride as a kid, then you might remember how bouncy the trot was. Perhaps you thought: “Yikes! I can barely stay seated at this slow pace. I wonder how they do it at a gallop?”
Actually, it’s not that hard. Cantering, the next speed up from trotting, is smooth as silk. It feels like flying. Galloping is a little rougher, but still smoother than trotting.
So if your instructor tells you to canter for the first time, don’t worry. It’s time to fly!
4. Leather and Water do Mix. One time, the owner of the barn where I took lessons asked me to use a moist rag to clean a bridle. I was horrified, like she had just asked me to commit a crime.
“But water ruins leather!” I protested.
“A little bit won’t hurt it.” She replied. “And water is just what we need to remove that dried-on grass.”
I was still hesitant, but she insisted. So, with much fear and trembling, I tried it. The bridle was fine!
It was oddly liberating to know that I could use water on leather. After that, whenever mowed grass or mud got stuck to my boots, I applied a damp cloth, and presto! All clean.
5. Saddles Creak Constantly. Books about horses may describe the thud of hoof beats, but they never mention the squeaking of the saddle. And believe me, saddles squeak constantly. Below is a video of my friend Anne Leueen riding her horse Biasini. Just turn your volume up, and you’ll hear what I mean about the noise.
5. Horse Eyes Adjust Slowly. Horses are used to living outdoors. In nature, light changes slowly; the sun gradually sinks below the horizon over a period of hours. So their eyes adjust slowly to light changes. This works fine in the wild, but horses who live in stables can have a problem. When you lead your horse out of the barn and into blinding sunlight, your eyes probably get used to it within a handful of seconds. Horse eyes, however, can take up to 20 minutes to adjust. So for newbie riders, here’s a pro tip: when entering or exiting a dark stable, stop for a few minutes and let those beautiful equine eyes adjust. Your horse will thank you.
6. Your Horse Wants Your Beer. Surprisingly, many horses throughout the ages have enjoyed a cold one. A horse named Comanche, who was the only confirmed survivor of Custer’s Last Stand, enjoyed beer. Another famous equine, Sargent Reckless, earned 2 Purple Hearts during the Korean War. She also acquired a taste for alcohol. In addition, I’ve heard of a horse who would only take his supplements if half a bottle of Guinness was added first.
So why do horses like beer? Well, I don’t have any scientific evidence for this, but my theory is that horses enjoy the taste of the beer’s barley. As you may already know, horses are not just fed hay — they also eat grains, such as oats and (you guessed it) barley.
7. Dirt Makes a Great Spray-Tan Substitute. Don’t knock it until you try it.
8. The Mysterious Horse-Human Bond. This is hard to describe if you’ve never felt it before. Really, only horse people truly understand this, but I’ll do my best to describe it. It’s something about that feeling of freedom as you gallop through a field, that feeling of accomplishment as you soar over a jump you never could before, that feeling of warmth when your horse comes running after you call him. Furthermore, the horse-human bond is special because it should never work. Horses are prey animals, while humans are predators. As Anne once put it: “We are their natural enemies, yet they choose to work with us.” Isn’t that amazing?
So did any of these surprise you? How many did you already know? Leave a comment to let the world know!
And until next week: stay fuzzy, my friends!
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