What to do with a horse?

Now that I’m starting to educate myself about horses in a serious manner, some questions come up: Why do I actually want a horse? How many is appropriate? When will be the right time to put my foot into the horse world? What level of training and brokeness do I require? And perhaps most perplexingly: What the heck do I plan on doing with a horse?

There are two very common reasons why I want things relating to my little farming dream: the first is that I had a taste for something as a kid, but never was able to have the experiences I wanted, and the second is that I want my (as-yet-unborn) kids to grow up having these things. Like being able to get a cat when I was old enough to move away from my deathly allergic brother, having horses is something that I want all the more because I have not been able to have them or be around them for various reasons while growing up. I definitely want my kids to grow up around horses, to have that ease and natural confidence that comes from doing something from an early age, like swimming or a second language. But mostly, I want horses for myself.

I was almost a cliche when I was a kid. Pouring over horse books, loving the illustrated encyclopedias, picking out horse breeds, colors, and tack. Having dream stables. And through it all, pining for a real horse. Not a pony. Let’s face it, I was a tall, chubby kid (I was my current height and an adult weight by the time I was ten) and I had no illusions to being a tiny, pony riding woman.

What did I want? A big drafty thing. A strawberry roan Ardennes gelding. My rationale? I could plow with them and ride them. Bareback. Yeah. I also wanted a huge Shagya Arab mare. Bigger than the Arabs to pack my weight around, but still fine and pretty. Rare and expensive tastes, of course.

Now that I’m older, I have different priorities. I want a percheron. You know, for uh, plowing, and, uh, riding bareback. Yeah. But seriously, folks. I do want to learn how to plow with horses. And to drive. And also for a slow, “husbandproof” horse that I can stick anyone on for trail rides regardless of weight or ability. I would love to take a horse from http://www.gentlegiantsdrafthorserescue.com/. They won’t be too far away when we move to Virgina.

I need something slow and broke in order for me to learn how to ride properly. I should probably learn how to ride western, though I feel better in an english saddle. Despite my relative inexperience, I seem to have a sticky ass, so english doesn’t intimidate me and Western makes me feel like I’m in one of those high-cantled camel saddles that are practically chairs, though I think the saddles I’ve used have been the biggest problem and I should try a whole bunch out.

My goals were simply to trail ride and to occasionally ride the horses around the property while I worked. Maybe to learn how to work harnessed draft horses for plow and cart and other farmish jobs. I expected that if there was anything sporty I wanted to do once I learned how to ride, I’d run across it in due time. But I really couldn’t think of anything I’d like to try, even though I’m passably familiar with quite a few.

I think dressage is really neat, but isn’t something I’d necessarily want to spend a lot of time learning. Certainly not to show. Showing in general doesn’t thrill me. Halter? PFFFT. Western Pleasure? Crazy Sequinned Jackets? Nuh uh. I watched a 300lb woman pick out a violently blue jacket and about four pounds of rhinestones for a show. That’s exactly what I’d look like, minus the frazzelley red hair. I think vaulting is mysterious and odd, and I’m both compelled and frightened by the thought of cavorting around on top of a moving horse. Polo? Just no. Racing? Nope, I’m too heavy. Barrel Racing? Er, I like my teeth. Jumping? Hunt seat? SCARY! Driving? Perhaps at home, but not in competition or anything. Endurance? Not the sort of thing I’m looking for. Cow cutting? Well, kinda interesting, but since I’m rather afraid of cows, the whole idea is intimidating. Reining? Wait–what IS reining? I had no idea. Until yesterday.

I was under the impression that there wasn’t anything organized that looked either fun or safe or interesting enough for me to want to try. I ran across a couple of references to reining that ran contrary to what I thought it was (For some reason I thought it was similar to ground driving) and when I got onto youtube for some visual examples, holy cow! That looks like so much fun! Plus, those compact, powerful little horses are just so pretty! I was just sort of beside myself with glee.

Somehow, just knowing there’s something interesting out there gives me a goal to work towards beyond “trail riding on a sedate horse” and I feel much more motivated to get myself in a position to take lessons again.


3 responses to “What to do with a horse?

  1. Ha! Too bad you don’t live in Deroche. Our neighbor (and friend) Wendy is all about the reining, and she’s been teaching for years. She’s probably not the type of coach who puts your stomach into knots half an hour before lessons, either — she’s one of the sweetest, most supportive people I know. I’ve been thinking of asking her to do some lessons with me on Raven, just to get her used to arena work (which she finds terrifying). Go for it!

  2. Hi! I actually volunteer at Gentle Giants. 🙂 That’s how I ended up finding your blog post here (was searching on the site URL for curiousity’s sake)

    If you’re interested in reining, you’d probably find http://mugwumpchronicles.blogspot.com interesting. She’s a former trainer who talks a lot about reining and cowhorses. And the way I think of reining is that it’s actually like the Western version of dressage. 🙂

    Anyway, if you’ve got questions about the big drafties, I can answer those too.

    I mean, heck, I’ve been wondering just what I want to do with my hypothetical horse myself. I’m not overly interested in showing, but I like trail riding (and they don’t have to be sedate walking trails 😉 ), and jumping’s okay. Dressage is actually really interesting to me, the idea of working so closely with a horse that most people can’t tell you’ve actually asked it to do anything is pretty cool.

    Anyway, hi! 🙂

  3. Welcome! I’m not as active on the blog as I would like to be, but I’m working on that. Mugwump Chronicles has been on my list that I read for a long time, and is in my Horse links section.

    Speaking of, I should put GG in the links too. I think it’s so awesome that you work with the Gentle Giants rescue. We’re thinking of moving back to the VA/MD area in a few years, and it would be awesome to come in person to see everything.

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