A Beginners Guide to Horseback Riding:
For Beginners by a Beginner
By: Michael Ryan
They say horses can sense your fear so remain confident and relaxed around them. Heck, I’m sure they see me coming before I’ve even gotten out of the car.
There’s a History Here
The Wife and her friends are all comfortable as heck on horseback and constantly trying to rope me into going on rides. I don’t mind riding but I prefer it be in a circle on a pony at a carnival or petting zoo. I think I had a bad experience in my youth at the supermarket. The ride only cost a nickel but it scarred me for life.
First of all, don’t be a smart-alec around the wranglers; these are the guys who will pick your horse. On one trip in Colorado I was cracking jokes, hamming it up for the camera and being the life of the party as we gathered in the stables. I suggested to the wrangler, as I stood in my cargo shorts and cowboy hat that I wanted a horse named “Buttercup” or ‘Old Glue.” I got “Warrior.”
Speaking of cargo shorts; don’t wear them. It may be hot out but jeans or long pants like from Mountain Khakis.com make much more sense. Besides, cargo shorts look really dorky with cowboy boots. Trust me on this; I have the photos to prove it. Long pants should be worn and don’t show up in flip flops. Even if you’re riding on the beach that doesn’t mean flip flops are proper. Boots are suggested, unless you’re a guy in shorts. Shorts and boots are cute on girls- on guys? Not so much.
You want an older horse, more experienced, more used to human contact and, dare I say: one who has pretty much given up on life. I no longer feel the need to show off how tuff and cocky I am and I sure don’t want a horse that does. Horses that have their head down, their back sagging and I have found this especially attractive in a horse, one that is farting and pooping as they approach, is the best choice for you the beginner.
Don’t Get Cocky
If they ask your skill level; lie, lie, and lie. Even if you have ridded before, don’t tell them that or you’ll never get Buttercup. My buddy and I were lining up to ride in Mexico, because the wife was making me- and we jumped into the intermediate line with all the other good looking folks. As the wrangler explained their idea of “Intermediate” we looked at each other and stealthily jumped over to the beginner line. Good thing too because I then got an old nag that was probably older than me.
But Show No Fear
The best way to overcome your fear of horses is to spend more time around them. Walk slowly towards your horse and pet him or her between the ears. Whatever you do, don’t look at those gigantic teeth that are inches from your precious hand. They say to talk to the horse soothingly but they don’t explain what a horse finds soothing. I’m thinking you should avoid words like, “Rendering Plant” or “Dogfood.”
Pick Your Group Wisely
Just as I moved over to the beginner’s line in Mexico, you should pick the group you accompany with care. When I once and only once went with the Wife and her friends they started bugging the head wrangler about when we would get to run the horses. Run the horses? I thought we were running. I was bouncing around so much I though my little buddies Slim Jim and the Twins would never have anything to do with me again. The Wife says once the horse starts running, things smooth out. Problem is: she doesn’t have the same things to “Smooth out,” as I do.
Show Him Who’s Boss
Sure we all want to look like John Wayne or even Clint Eastwood when atop a horse. Well I can do both because Mr. Wayne is dead and Clint is getting mighty old. Still, you should sit tall in the saddle, take the reins with authority and hang on for dear life. I have found that pulling the reins towards the right makes the horse move his head right a little and then he keeps walking straight ahead. Pulling to the left makes him take a nip at my leg. Either way I’m screwed so I think we’ll just keep going straight.
Know Your Equipment
You want to make sure your saddle is cinched tight and secure. I have no idea what that means and you probably don’t either so once again, be nice to your wrangler. That big knob in the front, middle of your saddle is called a knob. Actually if you’re riding a Western saddle it’s called a saddle horn. Anywhere else I assume you can go with, “Knob.” Whatever it’s called, do not wrap the reins around this with your fingers inside the reins or when the horse dips his or her head, and he or she will, it will crush your fingers. I have found it best to drop the reins and hold onto the knob as if your life depends on it, because it does.
I’m Going Home
If you’re riding at a commercial stable, the horses have done this day in and day out for most of their lives. They know, just as you are contemplating a beer or something a bit stiffer once you survive this, they are getting fed. That means the ride back will be a tad quicker than the way out. The good thing here is the horse knows exactly where he or she is going so you are free to hold onto the knob, cover your eyes and do whatever you deem necessary for your survival. Of course, you don’t have these problems at the carnival or better yet, the supermarket.
By: Michael Ryan
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