From the very time I could recollect anything, I was obsessed with horses. I was stricken with this malady even before I was in grade school. When the mood was particularly striking, I could ask my dad to buy me a horse everyday for a month long stretch.
One would assume that he would eventually give in and at least get me some riding lessons, but that never happened. My father had a very strong dislike for horses as he had grown up around an “old world” attitude. As a young child, after seeing several large men receive broken shoulder and collar bones from my uncle’s contemptuous Tennessee Walking Horse, Prince, my dad was very much afraid of horses.
To my great dislike, my cousin had two of her own horses. Occasionally I would convince my grandmother to take me to my uncle’s farm so I could ride the horses, but those visits were few and far between.
Growing up in an extremely rural area, I had absolutely no access to horses whatsoever and as junior high and high school arrived, I had been firmly brainwashed with the idea that horses were reserved for the wealthy or “die-hard” enthusiast. So little by little my dreams of owning a horse had basically fizzled into a broken heart. I painfully came to accept the fact that I was not worthy of owning a horse or even being around them.
Then adulthood came along and I found myself working the night shift as a janitor in a Catholic school, making just enough income to support myself. Occasionally I would pass by a horse farm or see something horse related on the television and that old familiar feeling would resurface while my menial income would reinforce the belief that horses would always be out of my grasp.
When I was 26 I decided to go to college and pursue a bachelor’s degree in English. I was tired of being a janitor and I wanted to become a novelist. All those lonely nights out in the middle of nowhere I had spent writing stories, and now I wanted to try and make a career out of it.
After a few years in college I met a friend, Sarah, who had a young Arabian gelding. At first Sarah and I were merely acquaintances; we knew each other from our positions as work-studies in the same department on campus and knew that we were both horse-lovers.
On the way to a class that Sarah and I had together, I ended up running into her in the parking lot and asked her how her horse was doing as a way to make conversation. She ended up asking me if I had ever considered leasing a horse before. The fact was, recently my desire to be around horses was starting to overpower me again and I had recently looked around online for a local place that would lease horses. But since I didn’t have any riding experience, I decided not to.
So Sarah continues to tell me that she’s trying to lease her horse in order to help with the expense of board. Since I would be helping a fellow student, I decided to try this whole leasing thing. Sarah’s terms were pretty simple, pay half of her board ($200) and I could use her horse whenever she wasn’t.
I leased Ice from Sarah for the entire summer. It was my first great horse experience. Ice was a green-broke 4 year old Arabian gelding, so I didn’t get as much time in the saddle as would have liked. However, I did get to prefect my groundwork skills with him. I took some lounging lessons from her instructor and got to where I felt fairly comfortable being around all the horses and horse-people.
After summer ended I decided to stop leasing Ice due to financial restraints, and I wanted to be able to afford riding lessons. But one of the most important things I learned from my friendship with Sarah and Ice was that horses are not reserved for the wealthy or the elite.
Sarah was a college student in her mid-twenties who came from a similar socioeconomic background. Our families were both poor, working class, and had absolutely no extra income to spare on riding lessons or horse leases. And as a result, we both had to wait until adulthood before we were able to finally fulfill our equestrian dreams. Of course, Sarah had to work hard for her money in order to keep her horse at the facility she chose, and she has to make daily sacrifices like most every individual is faced with. But most importantly, she was doing it.
After leasing Ice, Sarah and I became wonderful friends. We both worked on the school newspaper and shared a passion for volunteering at a local therapeutic riding center.
At the beginning of this month, I started to lease another horse from a man who runs a small boarding barn at his home. Due to the weather and transportation issues, I haven’t been out to see my horse, Sue as much as I’d like. But now that the weather is finally breaking and the transportation issue has been solved, I plan to go see Sue as much as it’s possible.
My biggest concern is that leasing Sue means I can’t afford to buy riding lessons. I had some lessons from a woman in Michigan City and I felt like I could just start riding Sue and work on what I learned in my lessons, then in the meantime, save up for some more. But the first few times I rode Sue I felt like such a greenhorn. Sarah came out and to watch me one day and said my posture was too slouched and she felt that’s why Sue wasn’t as responsive because my position was so close to the “whoa” position.
This frustrated me because I had spent hundreds of dollars on several lessons from a woman who claimed to be exceptionally competent. During my lessons she would tell me that I leaned forward too much and that would cause me to fly forward if my horse makes any sudden stops. She emphasized sitting deeply in the saddle and always sit on your pockets. This feeling of having to sit deeply and stay on my pockets turned into the
Slouching (whoa position) that my friend witnessed.
Being embarrassed and frustrated, I turned to Youtube for some advice. I found a little video by a woman on how to sit properly in the saddle. She talked about finding your “seatbones” and how important they are. Considering they are so important I could not understand why the woman who gave me the lessons had not told me about these seatbones.
When you sit on your pockets, your body puts its weight back onto your rump, which as I read, can add an extra 20 lbs. Of weight to the horse.
I plan to work on walking and groundwork with Sue and try taking some lessons from another instructor as soon as possible .