And That Is How I Learned to Ride Horses

Another Hatchett Job blog, horses, therapeutic riding, Creative Commons attributionI have always been drawn to animals, mostly the furry, mammalian kind.  Fish are cool and all, but what I really love is a critter that I can pet and cuddle with.  That has pretty much left me happy at petting zoos and with the traditional puppies, kitties, guinea pig, bunny kind of pets.

So, almost two years ago, when my oldest son with Asperger’s had the opportunity to receive 10 weeks of therapeutic riding instruction at a barn not too far away, we jumped at the chance!  While he rode and learned, I met other moms and made friends and fed the occasional treat to the horses that were around.  Eventually, I would also pet them and notice their individual personalities.  We laughed and called them the “Big Dogs” because they really did seem kind of similar to what I had seen with pet dogs and puppies.

I learned all their names from reading the tags on the stalls.  Let me rephrase, I learned all of their names WRONG because the horses in the stalls don’t always correspond with the signs on the front of the stalls.  I re-learned names through trial and error.  I asked a lot of stupid questions.  Once I saw an article on the 10 stupid questions everyone asks horse people.  I had asked 8 of them.  But, the instructors seemed glad that I was asking questions and interested in the horses that they loved so much.  It didn’t seem to bother them that I walked out to watch the lessons and help where untrained labor was needed, while some of the other Moms were happy in the car with the A/C on.  I slowly learned the terminology and eventually could tie a Western Saddle Knot like nobody’s business because I was helping my kiddo.

And over the months I began to deliberately bring snacks to the horses because it was fun to be with them.  I told other Moms how much my son’s balance, confidence, and social skills had improved since he had been riding and I invited them along to take a look.  I taught the other Moms what the horses names were.

One day, someone said that the Moms should get to ride and learn some of what their kids were doing.  Next thing you know, we had a Mom’s once a month riding group and I was in!

Then, we had to actually ride the horses and not kill ourselves.  Most of us had no experience and I enjoyed learning about the tack to use and grooming the horse that I was assigned, a big, white (poor guy got older and his spots faded grey!), Paint named Rocket.  But, eventually, we had to get on our horses and at that I was (all of a sudden) really scared!  I must have been on pure adrenalin and anticipation up to that point.

Another Hatchett Job, photo by Ethan Hatchett, Baron the Shire Horse, Calvin Center Equestrian Program, therapeutic riding, hippotherapy
The Author with Baron

But, once I got on and didn’t die, the lesson went really well as I learned how to hold the reins, use the stirrups, and generally stay upright on the horse.  I went back again…and again.  I eventually asked if I could take lessons also.   I keep progressing at my own pace (I think it’s been maybe 5 months now since my first ride) and I am a trotting fool.  No cantering yet, but I am getting there.

During these months, we received a donation to the program of a beautiful 20 year old Shire gelding named Baron.  He is furry and friendly and big enough to make you feel like he could never let you fall off.  He had  been used primarily for driving and not for riding, so he is building some top line muscles and building up endurance before being in the program.  He is an absolute gentleman and everybody that sees him is instantly smitten.

I am certainly no exception!  I love him and I always save some of the best treats for him each time I see him.  Lately, I have had the opportunity to ride him just a tiny bit at a walk to aid in his training.  I can honestly say that he rides like a dream and that I now have fantasies of running off with him (or walking off until he muscles up a bit).  Of course, my instructor would kill me if I tried and I am sure that at least 30 others are having the same fantasies, but a girl can dream, right?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

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2 thoughts on “And That Is How I Learned to Ride Horses

    1. Kathy, Contact your state’s Special Olympics office and find out where the nearest SO riding team is. Each participant gets 10 weeks of free lessons before competition. It’s a great way to open up the doors to trying it out. I am sure your granddaughter would love it. Even if she doesn’t qualify for SO, those are the places where safety is first and foremost, so good places to learn to ride at. Our barn does both therapeutic and regular lessons.

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