Horseback Riding 101
The Dream of Horsemanship
Riding horses is a romantic notion that we carry from the time we are kids. If you have a love for horses in your blood you will automatically know what I mean. As we grow up and learn to deal with real horses we discover that it's not as much fun as we thought it would be when we daydreamed of this wonderful animal carrying us where ever we wanted to go. We did not dream about horseflies, falls, animals that become ill and/or die, the smell of manure and rotten straw, or the constant striving between animal and man to make the animal behave and follow our wishes.
While it's true that there have been some wonderful horse tales of animals that gave their lives to save their masters or that raced the clock to save someone in need of quick doctoring, there have also been some hideous accidents, such as the one prominent in the news about the former super-hero star who broke his neck as the result of a fall from a horse that refused a jump. (I will not name names, but if you follow what goes on in the horse world I'm sure you will realize to whom I refer.)
There are several good reasons for riding horses. Some remote places leave horses as the only option for getting around very well, such as mountainous regions unfriendly to motorized vehicles. There have been a few isolated incidents where the vehicles were gone, the telephone was out, and a ride on a horse was the only way to get help for one reason or another. Riding horses during these times is commendable and brave. But if we want to tell the whole truth, we must also acknowledge the danger. People have been killed getting thrown from a horse, and although many more people are killed in car accidents each year, one must still weigh the benefits against the risks.
The Redeeming Side
Over history much has been accomplished because of the horse. Before motor vehicles existed many things were hauled many places by horses pulling wagons. They were a major vehicle of commerce and a means of survival.
Even today there are some things only horses can do. Horses who are well trained to work with the disabled can benefit them and improve their condition in ways that have not yet been thoroughly scientifically explained.
If you have decided that you either wish to face the risk or that the benefits of riding horses outweigh those risks, here are a few pointers:
1. If the horse tries to run away with you, pull one rein short and keep it there. He can't get too far if he can only run in circles.
2. Keep your hand flat when feeding any treats so as to prevent being accidentally bitten. Keep your thumb tucked close to your hand.
3. Use a martingale for horses that try to raise their heads above the bit. Some are intelligent enough to realize that there is no bit action when they raise their heads to a certain level, and a martingale prevents this nicely.
4. Do not tickle your horse. When you brush a horse it will be inclined to kick you if you're not careful around his front elbow and near the top of his back hips. You cannot blame the horse for reacting to such a stimulus, so if he kicks at you remember to be more careful.
Whether you ride horses or not is up to you. You are the person responsible for your decision. You may also be the person responsible for deciding whether a horse crazy little girl will approach this animal or not. Horses can and have been safely handled and ridden, but there will always be accidents. When a fall has a lasting or devastating effect, will it be any consolation that your child was doing what she loved? We have to ask ourselves truthfully whether it is worth it, or whether another hobby that is more safe and more worthwhile might be pursued with better results. Try getting her a miniature horse that she can pet and feed, but that won't throw her or run away with her. Try getting her something else she wants. There are lots of things kids could make good use of that are less expensive than the upkeep and purchase price of your average equine. Ask your child for a list, or try to think of good, practical replacements.
I have yet to see anybody thrown from a computer.