Sylvain asked: 2. In your last post, you talked about meeting your horse. Tell me more about it. When was this and what was draws you to horses and to riding?
(The post in question was written a long time ago. It was about meeting My Boy, who was put down last year. Read it here.)
Meeting My Boy was the most wonderful experience. It was wild. I waited my whole life for a horse. I got him in my 30s. I can honestly say I had wanted my “very own horse” for 30 years.
I started riding when I was 2 or 3. I don’t have much memory of that, but I look perfectly adorable in the photos. Riding was a rite of passage for every youg Irish girl, and despite my families financial situation, money was found/made/saved for me to take occasional lessons. As I grew older, my love and dedication to the “way of the horse” grew and grew. It was my big “hobby”. My siblings were rep hockey and soccer players. I played house league. And rode. Weekly lessons turned into weekly lessons, plus a trail ride if I spent the day mucking out stalls and cleaning tack. Hard work, but worth it. Nothing like hanging in the barn with a bunch of horse crazy tweens and then going for a ride without an instructor. Oh the freedom.
The awesome thing about horses, is that you really can’t MAKE them do anything. You can make doing what you want them to do easier, you can ask nicely, you can use neat tricks and position your body in such a way that they will do what you want, but the bottom line is that even the smallest horse can do serious damage to a human if they wanted to. Heck, even by accident.
My new horse (I have had her for 6 months now) is a Clydesdale. I am regularly amazed that she doesn’t choose to kill me. Because she could. In a heartbeat. She weighs at least 1600 pounds (she will likely finish at 1800-1900 pounds). She is currently 16.3 hands. Which means (for the non-horsey-people), that her withers (where her neck starts from her back) are 5’6″ from the ground. I’m a tall person. I can barely see over her at her withers. She will likely grow another couple of inches. It is not uncommon for Clydesdales to be 18 hands. That is 6 feet from the ground to the top of her back. That is a tall horse.
People, even horse people, are surprised to see how much I can get her to do without many of the “harsher” training methods. Granted, I have been known to hand out a well deserved smack, and I do use a whip when training (she HATES the sound of it hitting my leg). But generally, I use methods that make doing the right thing easy, and the wrong thing hard. And I generally assume that if Baby doesn’t get it, then I am asking her the wrong way.
But, I can never REALLY make her do something. She is always going to be bigger and stronger than me. She chooses to do what I ask. She chooses not to kill me. And that is really amazing.
I don’t ride Baby yet. She is still too young (almost 3 years now), in my opinion. I’m teaching her to pull a cart. Breaking her to drive.
But riding a horse is such a great way to see the world. I love trail rides. Exploring the woods on horseback is really cool. And underlying it all is that this amazing creature lets you ride it. It is an incredible relationship.