One time, when my littlest was 2 or 3, someone gave us this horse called Speedy. Speedy looked near death, but his name was aptly suited.
I was running gopher traps, and my littlest was on speedy while I walked along doing these traps in the pivot. I didn’t remember that they were driving the cows from the ranch to the farm that day, and the cows came pulling in, quite a distance away, but enough to rile Speedy up.
He honked it on, and my little girl was thrown. That danged horse was crow hopping and prancing along, and I told her she needed to just walk beside me while we finished the traps. She kept telling me to put her back on, and I kept looking at Speedy and telling her nope. Finally she sat on her butt and refused to walk through the snow, and I was irritated and in a hurry, so I threw her back on that old jerk. Lol. They pranced the rest of the way. High headed and snorting, and the girl just laughing along.
Later, when my oldest was 5 or so, that horse decided for whatever reason to buck her off in the arena. Filled her mouth with dirt, and she cried, but she decided she had better listen to me about how to get around him after that.
Speedy never was a good horse. We put some weight on him, and they rode him for a couple years before we had to put him down. For a while we had the hardest time finding a decent horse for them.
I never knew anyone that took lessons. When I was a kid, you bought a horse, and you learned as you went. If you fell off, you learned that hurt, and don't do it again. As you rode your horsemanship got better. The older kids taught the younger kids.
I don’t remember learning to ride. I remember a lot of the horses I rode as a kid, and several of my first memories are on horses.
One of my favorites was my dad and I, going to lope around the heifers on an alkali flat, and my stirrup just fell off. My dad somehow had bailing wire and he told me he would “Mickey mouse” it together. I don’t know why it holds in my memory so well, but I was happy.
I remember riding a mare called Darcell a lot in my small childhood. I conned her to the fence to get on everyday, after she must have held her head so low for me to halter and tie the rope as reins. I would take off and lope around the pivot multiple times a day, and multiple times a day I would fall off half way around, and then lead that mare back all the way to the house so I could climb the fence to get back on. She was a doll of a horse.
My niece had a lil horse, Sunshine. My sister had put up a small round pen so she could ride. Anyway, Emily had her pony out there and would shove her up against the fence. Then she'd scamper up the fence, and get on. Those lil feet went to flailing and she wanted to go fast. So there she was. Sunshine in a rough, but fast trot and maybe even manage a lope. Emily kept sliding farther and farther to the inside. And soon enough, she'd hit the dirt, and bounce. There she sat, little fists all balled up smacking the ground "Brat horse!!" Then, she'd dust herself off, and start all over.
What a fun memory!!
One of my favorite horses when I was little was called Bucky. Obviously a buckskin, he was 5 I think when I got to ride him, probably the same age as I was, and owned by my grandpa. Every day we would go to work, my dad would say, “Is Bucky going to buck you off today?”
One day we were pushing cows, and we had dropped them in a ranch where they would stay overnight, and then we were riding to our ranch from there. My dad’s brothers were there, and grandpa and dad and I.
I saw my uncles look at each other, and they were betting on a race. Dad and grandpa were talking amongst themselves and not paying attention to the younger brothers. When they took off Bucky decided we were in the race, and he blew those boys away. I eventually got him stopped, and boy was my father hot. Lol
He was screaming at his brothers, and I came back all proud I’d won the race. “Well any runaway beats a controlled horse,” he scolded me. When he wasn’t looking I was sticking my tongue out at my uncles. I won I won!
Grandpa sold Bucky. I guess he took him hunting, maybe in Wyoming. That horse got so scared of the places they climbed he started passing out. After that, anytime things got steep he would pass out cold. So, Bucky went down the road. I don’t know what ever happened to him after that.
We had a little horse when I was growing up, Sonny. He was a Welsh/Shetland cross and the biggest mess you ever did see. He was feisty and mean, and fast as all get out to my 8-10 year old self. He liked to rear a
bit, though and I’d just slide right off his butt. Dad got tired of him doing it and decided he would teach him a lesson.
Dad filled a Coke bottle with warm water and got on Sonny (which was pretty funny because Dad was 6’3”) and as usual, Sonny reared. Dad popped him lightly with that Coke bottle of water right between the ears and let that warm water run out. Old school thinking was that the horse would feel that pop and water, think it was blood and wouldn’t rear any more. Son wasn’t having it though, ran Dad right under the clothesline and pulled Dad off his back end. I swear that horse was laughing as he ran off.
He was so much fun to ride on barrels and poles in little local playdays. There was a race called a rescue race and you went down and picked someone up from the other end of the arena and raced back home riding double. I usually partnered with an older kid who was tall enough he could lay himself across Sonny’s back end and we rode home that way. Such good memories of riding that little brat horse. When my parents got divorced, we had to sell him. I was one sad little girl.
I learned to ride the country way (on a free pony called Kid Curry, or Kiddy for short, who loved to buck and bolt). I never had lessons. Now as an adult I am learning the other way.
For me as an adult, to get to the same level of riding ability, the other way is faster than the country way. I think if I had ridden longer as a child I would have eventually figured it all out, even without lessons. Now as an adult, it is much faster to have eyes on the ground in a lesson to tell me what I need to adjust. I think kids have a better sense of their body and how to adjust it than adults, so can potentially figure things out the country way while most learner adults have less of that ability.
I also think that when children are younger, the country way of just figuring it out is more fun and easier for them. Like the other way is good for adult learners but the country way is good for young children learning. I loved learning the country way as a kid, and now, my youngest would love that opportunity (but I grew up on a farm and she is a city kid without space or a pony). She loves just hanging round horses and figuring things out, taking care of them etc, but she gets super bored in lessons.
Not all of us were lucky enough to grow up with family horses. I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan.
My father loved horses and since I was a very athletic child, thought I should learn to ride. It was far more responsible of him to see that I had lessons rather than take me to one of those stables that always had signs reading “RIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK”.
Boy, did he open a can of worms. I spent the rest of my childhood whining, begging, pleading for my own horse. Fortunately for me, some good friends of my parents bought a picture-book farm and two horses and were very accommodating of my horse fever.
That being said, some of your stories sure gave me a good chuckle 🙂
I think adult learning depends on if you want to ride trails or sports. For trail riding, it is hard to beat just riding a decent horse with someone experienced setting the pace, and then move to more challenging horses if available. If the goal is to become a "dressage" rider, or a "western pleasure" rider, or jumping, etc...then lessons, in part because those aren't exactly natural ways of riding.
The problem I see with lessons is how few people have any business trying to teach riding. For example, I paid to learn collection was when you urged the horse forward with your legs, held him back with the reins, and then the horse would round up between the two like a Slinky. Or like when I first started posting here, in 2010, and experienced riders would insist all good riding meant your ear, shoulder, hip and heel formed a vertical line at all times. Utterly bogus, but I sure took a lot of flack for arguing against it. Heels down? Really?
I started at 50. Books and videos and the instructors I had focused on POSITION, but riding ought to be about BALANCE and MOTION. As an adult who spent most of his adult life dealing with engineers, and with a mathematical bent myself, I overthought everything. To my detriment.
"I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven." - Jesus Christ. If riding is a bit of heaven on earth, then Jesus may have been giving good riding advice. At least from a trail riding perspective. Consider this basic instruction on turns from the USDF:
"In a correctly executed turn or circle the horse’s inside hind leg carries more weight than the outside one. Before every turn or circle the rider should prepare the horse with a half halt and transfer his weight a little to the inside seat bone, in the direction of the movement.
The horse should then be flexed in the same direction. The inside rein should guide the horse into the turn, the rider’s inside leg, close to the girth, causing the horse’s inside hind leg to reach further forward. The outside rein should yield just enough to allow the horse to flex to the inside, while at the same time it restrains the horse from falling out over the outside shoulder. The outside leg should control the quarters.
When the horse’s forehand is guided from the straight line into the direction of the turn, the influence of the inside rein is decreased again. The rider should ‘straighten’ the horse with the outside rein, keep the horse exactly on the line of the circle. (‘Straight’ on the circle means making sure that the hind feet follow in the tracks of the forefeet, and that the horse is bent from head to tail according to the curvature of the line.)
The correct distribution of the rider’s weight is most important. In transferring his weight to the inside seat bone he should push the inside hip forward with a deep knee. This will also prevent him from collapsing his inside hip and slipping the seat to the outside. At the same time he should make sure not to leave the outside shoulder behind." - http://www.usdf.org/edudocs/training/basicexercises.pdf
That might well be correct from a dressage competition perspective. But no kid - and no horse - would come up with that.
Heck the country kid in the cartoon had it easy, he had a saddle. LOL
My sister told me if I wanted to use a saddle I had to put it on myself. Couldn't even lift the thing let alone high enough to set it on the horse's back so I learned this way. In that old barn behind me there was a section with a low ceiling and I'd take the mare in there to get the bridle on because it forced her to drop her head. In this picture I was 7, the mare a late 2 year old. Needless to say I came off plenty. The worse she ever scared me though was one time when she ran off with me and I didn't even come off but to this day I remember thinking she just wasn't ever going to stop and we'd run at breakneck speed forever. I guess I wasn't smart enough back then to know she'd eventually get tired.
Lol @JCnGrace. I couldn’t saddle Darcell yet, but on days she was saddled I was unsaddling her. I was very proud of myself, and no one seemed to question me. Then one day my dad saw how I unsaddled the mare, and I was in trouble. I really didn’t know it was bad though.
I could barely reach the cinch, but with a lot of jumping and effort I could manage to get it undone. Then, I would wait for a second, and Darcell would shake the saddle off. I’d get it off the ground and tote it in the shed. I felt like a superhero.
When Dad saw her shake it off he said, “No! Don’t let her do that.” I was confused, “How else would I get it off?”
There was a filly at our house called Susie. It took me years to figure out she hadn’t been ours, but a horse my dad was starting for my grandpa. I loved that filly, and from the time she was two I was climbing on her bareback in the corral using the fence and the feeder. I was small too, maybe six, I’m not sure.
I adored Susie, and I spent a lot of my time with her. She loved me too, never put a foot wrong with me. I don’t remember outside of the corral, but I’m sure Dad let me ride her some.
For whatever reason my grandpa didn’t like her, and he sold her to a cousin of my father. I was mad, because it was the second horse I considered mine sold to this cousin, who I didn’t like in the first place. He was a big man I never saw once on a horse, with a mean wife. It wasn’t for years that I finally asked why they sold my horses to him, and they were confused by the question because neither horse ever belonged to us.
Suzie was maybe four when this cousin bought her, and just as good natured as they come. One day my dad and I were over there, and he asked how she was doing. They said they were scared of her, that she had gone to bucking. Dad laughed, “No she has not,” and he grabbed me, picked me up to throw me on the mare, and that man’s wife started screaming. “No! No! You will not put that child on that horse! No!”
Anyways, her dramatic screaming made him set me down. He was laughing. “Suzie wouldn’t do anything. That mare doesn’t buck.” I knew he was right without any doubt. I couldn’t see how they had gotten scared of the little buckskin. It made me so much madder that they got to own the horse I was so in love with.
Suzie seemed to live forever. When she was in her twenties one of their sons had decided he wanted to be a cowboy, and Suzie finally went to work after all that time. I don’t know how she didn’t die of a heart attack or founder, because she was beyond obese. She toted that young man as he learned though, and he probably rode her into her thirties.
He cowboys now. He’s a very nice man, and is fun to be around. I guess the cousin and his wife did something right.
@boots I think that always works out well. When my oldest moved to Bones, she finally started having some fun. I was surprised she could handle a lot of his nonsense, but she did and never complained. My husband laughed that teenagers need a taste of their own medicine. Lol
My first saddle, my dad picked out for me. I think it was on purpose, it was close to 40 pounds. While I had bought my horse, and the saddle, they still weren't thrilled at the idea of me riding. Well, it didn't take me long to figure out I needed to be able to saddle my own horse. So I set about getting my arms stronger. Soon, I could without any help from anyone. From then on, I had a whole new sense of freedom!
I had bought a long 3 year old recently gelded Appaloosa. I dont think they were thrilled about that either, but I'd had my eye on that colt since he was a weanling! That was MY horse! It just took getting my folks to move out of town, and me saving every dime I got my hands on. Not to mention talking the guy that had him, into selling him! But it all worked out, and Buck was mine.
We never looked back!
I found that same kid's first saddle for her. It was a real ordeal.
I had to work in Riverton for a few days. Met up with some local hands at a bar one night and mentioned looking for a 14" saddle. Some bleary-eyed bar sitter at the counter piped up that he had one. All I had to do was meet him at the Big Boy in town the next night.
I pictured looking at the saddle quickly, saying yay or nay, and going on my way.
Nope. He had a table by the front window. Ordered a bunch of food. Wouldn't talk saddle until he was done. Waved at every passerby. Talked non-stop. Stuck me with the bill (I've aged since then ). It was a good saddle that is still in use with grandkids.
You know how some women like to recount the story of a child's birth on the kid's birthday? I retell the buying of that darn saddle.
When I lived in Bowie, Maryland, we were in horse country. The bottom of our pasture was a railroad track and lots of folks kept horses along that track. One lady we knew kept a dining room place where people could reserve for things like weddings and social events. She was such a nice person, and was raising her two grandsons. They had horses but rarely rode them.
I am crazy about all kids. I love kids probably even more than horses. I wanted to befriend her 14 year old grandson, so I started getting him to come riding with some of us other riders who lived along there. That boy rode the worst I've ever seen. If there was a riding fault, he showed it. And he was hard on his horses. He galloped them on the railroad bed, in those egg-sized sharp stones. He yanked on the bit, and whipped his horses. His hands and feet were everywhere.
One day some of us suggested that he might like to take some riding lessons. He said, "Riding lessons! I've never had a lesson in my life and look how I ride!" My friend and I rolled our eyes at each other.