Horses are magnificent creatures and we are lucky that they share our world with us.
Horses came into my life late. I started riding on my 45th birthday and bought my first horse when I was 47. Chief was an Appaloosa gelding in his late teens. He was the perfect horse for a beginning rider. We had five wonderful weeks together before he died suddenly of complications from an intestinal stone. I was devastated. But I had been hooked on horses in those weeks and over the next few years horses were to take over my life.
I didn’t make as good of a choice on my next horse. Lucky was a ten year old chestnut Morgan mare. She was way too much horse for me. That’s a polite way of saying I wasn’t a good enough rider to make riding her safe for me. Horseback riding is a very dangerous sport. When many people think of horses they think of the “put one foot in front of the other” rent string horses at a dude ranch. Not all horses are like that. Some horses are firecrackers. Lucky was one of those. Even the calmest horse can spook and potentially drop its rider on the ground.
So Lucky and I took a lot of lessons to turn us into a team. We rode together for thirteen years until I had to retire her because she developed joint problems. When she died four years later at the ripe old age of twenty seven, it was like losing a close friend. I had chosen the right second horse after all.
My current mount, Grey, is a 22 year old Quarab. He is a great combination of the steadiness of his Quarter Horse mother and the get-up-and-go of his Arab father. We’ve been riding together for over nine years. Grey was a fortunate horse as his first rider was very experienced and trained him well. But having been ridden by a good rider has made Grey intolerant of poor riding. Because of all of the lessons I took on Lucky I measure up to his standards most of the time. But when friends, who are novice riders, come to visit and want to ride, I have to be careful to watch that Grey doesn’t get too frustrated with them on his back. I don’t want him to turn into “too much horse” for them.
My uncle, who had both horses and dogs, always said “People form a much closer relationship with dogs than with horses.” I partially agree with him. Dogs are a lot more like us. So it is easier for people to form a close relationship a dogs. But a rider can form an incredibly close bond with a horse. They are masters of reading body language, that’s how they communicate with each other. And just because they can’t see you when you are on their back doesn’t mean they can’t feel every movement of your body. And read it as clearly as if they could see you. If you are willing to join in this body language conversation by using your whole body to talk to and listen to your horse the rewards are great. You and your horse can become almost a single entity as you move across the ground in way that a mere human body could never move you.
If you would like to know more about Chief, Lucky and Grey, plan to read my memoir series. The first volume, tentatively titled Science, Computers and Horses, will be published in late 2016.
Or if you would like to experience the joy of horses for yourself, take some riding lessons. Who knows, horses make take over your life too.