Monday, April 20, 2009

equine interlude

We just got this postcard from my darling niece, Evie, this weekend. She and her brother, Lachlan, spent the Easter week with my parents up in Orkney. Seems she is turning into quite the horse-girl, too. Sadly, I don't think a pony will fit in my brother's allotment. Hopefully we can go take riding lessons together sometime! That would be a hoot -- getting shown up by my 8yr-old niece.

Folks may have noticed a few equestrian links on my blog-roll. While hardly exhaustive (because I think there may be more folks writing about horses than there are dogs), the folks on there reflect my nascent feelings about horses -- that while dealing with a stubborn or fearful 1100lb horse is a whole lot more to handle than a similarly confused or obstinate vizsla, the response and ideally the solution to the situation is the same. That kindness and patience will most often reward you both faster than force-of-will. My riding instructor steered me toward Linda Tellington-Jones -- and in the process of exploring the world of TTouch, I found Kim Carneal's excellent Enlightened Horsemanship blog and Sally Swift's Centred Riding.

Now all of this mindfulness and centred riding is fabulous if you have a horse that isn't already programmed in a particular way. Which brings me to wrangler's horses at field trials. I have ridden everything from a very good one from Will Langley at Bottom Creek Farm to some scarey-ass ones. This weekend's horses were somewhere in between. I actually have a lot of sympathy for both wranglers and their horses -- the horses have to be dog- and gun-proof, and will get ridden by a lot of very casual riders, probably more than a few who think because they know something about dogs then they must know something about horses. Which is to say, if the horse they rent doesn't turn out to be as good they think their dog is, the wrangler gets an earful. On the other hand, if you've ever tried to plant birds while pirouetting on a horse that won't stand still because it can't stand to be on its own -- and which then wants to gallop to catch up with its friends, if you're riding mis-matched stirrups and split reins and a saddle that is sufficiently worn to solve the world's over-population problem, then I think I get to express some concern. And can hopefully be forgiven for not finding my center.

Maybe I just have cowboy fantasies, but the working horses at High Mountain Horse seem to be blessed by beautiful scenery and some sensible, sensitive owners and operators. The Literary Horse strikes me as a horse version of the SmartDogs blog in some ways, part potpourri, part how-to guide, while the Fugly Horse of the Day seems like the even more irreverent equine version of Pat the Terrierman. And I mean that as a compliment to both of them.


Meg said...

I so love Evie's wee postcard, though I do wonder why someone would name a horse "Chubby"....? (but that could just be the Catholic school-girl smirking inside of me).
Xoxo Meg

Andrew Campbell said...


I think the horse is called 'Chubby' because Mike Meyers had already put a trademark on 'Fat B******d'.


High Mountain Horse said...

Sounds to me like the experiences you have balancing horses at the dog trials is quite the challenge. I've never done anything like that, and I bet you're right, it's remarkably demanding on the horse. I respect the direction you have chosen in your learning process. And learning, by the way, sure beats knowing it all. It's a good place to be. Enjoy the ride.

Delilah and Rocket said...

You have a very sweet niece! We hope to meet more horses one of these days. We're not very used to them.

Jane said...

Thank you. What a compliment! What you describe seems like overload to me, trying to direct the horse, the dogs, and shoot all at the same a TRIAL.

Give me an arena with an angry judge and grumpy horse any day.

Kudos. I can't even imagine trying to do that on 'rental string' horses. Poor things are usually so fried and tuned out. Not helpful for a thoughtful rider, as you are obviously trying to be.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you manage al that on a strange horse and then think of hilarious ways to describe it all at the same time.
I spit my coffee out on the keyboard as I was reading it.

Oh, and..if at all possible, you can spend just five minutes with your horse beforehand and do some of the introductory TTouches for trust. They will make a difference in how your "rental"horse responds to you. I promise!

If that doesn't work, you can always wear a cup.