By: Laura Parente-Comsa
I will admit, I’ve never been a fan of horseback riding. It was one of those things that I wanted to do because it sounds fun, and everyone else loves it. Then once I was on the horse I was scared and counting down the minutes until we were done.
When we first got horses I was fine with not riding. However, the rest of the world was not. “Do you ride them?” “How often do you ride?” … These were some of the questions I fielded constantly.
Ok, I thought…I guess I have to ride.
BubbaB was a baby when we adopted him, with very little information. The rescue organization we adopted him from agreed to come out and see his abilities. I was so excited. Of course he was going to do fabulous, right? Because all horses just naturally can take riders, right? Since horseback riding is all anyone talks about when you mention the word horse…right?
BubbaB failed his riding evaluation, miserably. It was quite obvious that he had never been ridden before.
“Just get rid of him.” People said. “I have a better horse for you.” “Send him back.” “Get a new one.”
Get a new one.
Like he is an appliance that is no longer working correctly or shoes that don’t fit.
When a dog doesn’t excel at something we work on it, or we make accommodations. Do we just send them back? For me, this was a frightening slap in the face with just how dark the horsing world can be. For horses, you have a job and once you can no longer do the job you are replaced. And riding, well that is the single reason you would ever have a horse, according to the world.
I will never forget one night, a guest at the Inn told me about this great organization she runs for horses. The story was beautiful, until she said that once a horse can no longer be ridden it “has to go.” She justified it by explaining that there is no reason to pay for a horse’s feed and board if it can’t be ridden.
I’m going to go against the whole horse world here. I’ll probably be outcasted, but I’m not sure I was ever “in-casted” so I will be ok.
It’s ok to have and love a horse and not ride them.
Say what!!! Get that girl to a hospital! She is bat-S*** crazy!
After BubbaB’s riding evaluation, we did “break him”…
Interruption: Can we discuss that phrase for a minute: It is called breaking because you break the horse’s spirit. You take all their natural instincts and train them to submissively obey the rider. I agree, this is for safety reasons, but if you focus on the phrase it starts to become obvious that riding isn’t natural for a horse.
We certainly didn’t break BubbaB’s spirit. In fact he was so bonded with us when we started that he just took to Nick and I on his back. He was very careful, especially with me. He stood so still the first time I ever got on his back. I will never forget it. Not because I could ride him, but because I loved him and I knew that he loved me.
As for the training, the walking the fence lines, the trotting, the walking over the logs, the reversing…and all the other things you have to learn…well, this wasn’t fun. BubbaB did good, but it was stressful. I was always nervous.
I got yelled at. BubbaB got yelled at.
It just wasn’t fun.
I wanted him to be the best horse. To be able to do everything all the other horses could do. I didn’t want anyone to ever tell me to “just get rid of him” again. …… So, we kept working on it. Every day.
Some days I’d pray for rain. If it rained I could just stay in the barn and cuddle with BubbaB. Because that was what I loved.
But that isn’t what you are suppose to do with a horse. According to the world, you have to ride your horse.
Then something happened: we were riding one day and it was extremely hot. At this point, I was trotting and posting and all those fancy things that all the fancy people do. I hated it, but went with it because I was told I had to. BubbaB had to. But, it was a very very hot day. I asked if we could stop because he was so sweaty and seemed agitated. We couldn’t though. We had to practice. No exceptions.
Well, BubbaB couldn’t take much more. He bucked.
Miraculously, I didn’t fall. I was so scared and had no idea what to do. I thew my arms around his neck and yelled “BubbaB I’m scared!”
He stood so calm and let me get off of him. I threw my arms around his sweaty body.
To me, this was love. This was the bond that everyone claims you can only get from riding. Sure, you could argue that all our riding practice is what created this. I respectfully disagree.
Grooming every night in his stall. Feeding him hay from my mouth. Laying with him and cuddling him. Playing silly games where I try to give him a piggy back ride…These are the things, I think, that bonded us.
When guests contact us about the Inn, the question I get most often is “Can we ride the horses?”
When I say no, it is always met with great disappointment. I tell guests that although we do not do riding, we allow guests to interact with the horses in other ways, and to help with grooming. I explain how grooming can be so therapeutic and the incredible experience it is. However, many guests frown on this. “I want to ride!” “Why would anyone stay there if they can’t ride?”
And, it continues beyond guests. Anytime I tell someone that I have horses they still ask “Do you ride?”
However, now when someone tells me there is no reason to own a horse unless you can ride them, I feel a bit different. Now I think, YOU clearly do not know horses.
There is nothing wrong with loving horseback riding. There is nothing wrong with horses that have spent their lives riding and that participate in horse shows and other events.
But there is also nothing wrong with horses that do not do riding.
They are still perfect.
“Horses are not a hobby you pick up and sit back down. They are a love that lasts a lifetime.”