After making the mistake of telling my horse enthusiast colleague that I’d never ridden before, I found that I was suddenly taking part in a live streaming event to showcase how little I know about horses and riding in general. While I have always had an open mind when it comes to new experiences, it is a bit daunting to face the prospect of climbing on top of a massive animal who could very easily throw me to the dirt in front of a live audience.
Thankfully, it was a pleasant ride, and Soldier couldn’t have been a more understanding partner who seemed like he was being purposefully lazy for my rookie benefit. Here’s a few things that I learned from my first—and hopefully, not last—lesson.
Now I completely understand why riders wear boots. They’re designed to protect your legs from rubbing around on the straps, saddle, and everything else you have scraping against you as you bounce around, lacking any semblance of coordination—not to mention making it easier to get into a jumping position.
2. Listening to the horse.
I had no idea how much of a bond the rider has with their horse. Even a short lesson showed me just how much communication is required to have a successful ride.
3. Grooming creates bonds.
The simple act of brushing a horse. Each horse has such a unique personality, and the more time you spend bonding with them, the more at ease you are around such a large and powerful animal.
4. Driving is much easier.
I’m sure that after a while, much of the form becomes second nature, but thinking about where you are holding your hands, feet, head, and body position—all while making sure you don’t hit the dirt or head off somewhere unexpected—is enough to make someone appreciate the skills professional riders must have as they gallop full speed around a course.
5. It’s a lifestyle.
With all the grooming, walking, cleaning, feeding, tacking up, brushing and a hundred other things that I probably didn’t have to do on my first lesson, I can understand how riders feel like they live at the barn.
6. An appreciation of slow horses.
I can only imagine how challenging it must be to ride an untrained horse, and I am appreciative for the slow and very patient demeanor of Soldier, who seemed more interested in walking around in a circle than galloping off into the woods while I clung to him for dear life.
7. Horse are NOT small.
This may seem like a silly lesson to learn, but when you’re 6-feet tall and you get on a 17-hand horse, the ground starts to seem pretty far away. That dirt looks soft, but I seriously doubt I would come away unscathed.
Toward the end of the lesson, I felt much more comfortable riding and started to get a feel for how Soldier walked and trotted. Although I am sure my form wasn’t going to win any ribbons, every now and again I would feel the rhythm of his stride. In those brief moments, I felt the exhilaration of riding such a graceful animal.
9. Horses are strong.
This may seem like common sense, but when you are holding the lead rope of a walking horse and they decide to chew on the nearest bush, you’d better believe they are chewing that bush.
10. Riding is a one-of-a-kind experience.
I can easily say that there is nothing that compares to riding a horse, and anyone who says that the horse does all the work clearly has no idea what they’re talking about. Soldier would have been content to stand around for the entire lesson if I didn’t encourage him to walk around.