I Finally Got My Grandson Up On a Horse!

I Finally Got My Grandson Up On a Horse!

During the decades that I owned horses, I had a fantasy of horses in my grandkids lives.  However real life interfered long before my grandson appeared on the scene.  Since I no longer have horses  my grandson did not get to meet horses, and I could not just pop him up on a trusted horse.

But now I have a big enough house to have a spare bedroom, so my son, Tally, and grandson, Will, can stay overnight, and since they live just a few hours away Tally and Will are now visiting us more regularly.  I immediately started plotting, Debbie told me she would be thrilled to be the first person to mount my grandson, and Shannon was willing to introduce my grandson to horses.  Finally, last Sunday, the stars aligned and the Fates smiled upon me, and I got to introduce Will to horses and get him up on one!  Since Will is six years old, the same age as I was when I first got to ride a horse, he is big enough to handle the adventure.

Since Debbie was at a show, Will met Shannon’s horses first.  As Tally led Will into the paddock, and as Will got nearer to the horses (well, they are 14 hand ponies) he suddenly realized that horses are BIG animals!  Will shrank back against Tally and I realized that emergency intervention was necessary.  Therefore, I took Will’s hand and took him to meet Shannon’s gigantic, 18.2 hand horse, Merlin.  As Will got nearer to Merlin his head went back as he tried to see Merlin’s back he whispered that Merlin was BIG.  After letting hang out with Merlin for a minute or two, I brought Will back to Magic, the 14 hand black TWH mare, and Will looked a lot happier.

Shannon got Cider ready for me as her mother, Nancy, got Magic ready for Will.  They were using the EZ-Fit treeless saddle on Magic, that saddle is way too big for Will but it sufficed for a pony ride, giving Will something to hang onto.  Tally lifted Will onto Magic’s back, Shannon got me up on Cider, checked to make sure everything was right with Magic and Will, and we went into the ring.

It was already HOT, so I just walked Cider around the ring, working on contact and straightness as I stole looks at Will on Magic.  Shannon has introduced many kids to riding, and I was quite happy to let her teach Will the basics of riding a horse.  Will’s legs were way too short to reach the stirrups, but since he was being led that did not matter.  With Nancy leading, Tally acting as a point man, and Shannon telling Will what to do, Will started actually riding a horse!  There was the usual explanation on handling the reins (actually the long lead rope of Magic’s rope halter) and how to sit on the horse (don’t slouch), and after 20 minutes Will wanted to take over control of his horse!  So Shannon taught him the basic turning aid with the reins, but Nancy never turned Magic loose, keeping close to Magic’s head to reinforce Will’s turning aids.

It was a satisfactory first ride for Will.  Shannon pointed out to me that Will naturally kept his heels down, unlike all the other kids she had started riding without stirrups.  I hope the next time Will visits me he will be eager to ride a horse again!

When I had my lesson with Debbie on Wednesday, she was in a hurry because she wanted to go with her daughter to the doctor’s office.  I introduced Bingo to my new Amigo FlyRider sheet.  It took Debbie and I several minutes to figure out how to use it with the saddle (the saddle pads first, then the fly sheet, then the saddle, then we had to hold the sides of the fly sheet up so that the girth would be under the fly sheet), then I put the neck part of the fly sheet on Bingo and I figured out how to attach it to the fly sheet.  I do wish that there were instructions, but all we had as a guide was the picture on the package.   The flysheet did not seem to faze Bingo at all.  Since it was so hot and muggy I got the trot in early in the lesson, doing a minute or two winding our way around the jumps so we got changes of bend and me changing my diagonals in the trot.  Bingo, as always, was resistant to turning, and several times he tried to drop back into the walk.  I kept him going until I was too tired to trot any more, this trot was maybe two minutes long.  Exhausted, I asked Bingo to walk.  The rest of the time I concentrated on turns, using my seat, legs and hands, alternately and lightly, to successfully get Bingo to cooperate with me. 

Bingo’s throatlatch is SO THICK that it is a challenge to get him to turn using light aids.  With any discomfort Bingo tightens up his upper neck muscles, his mouth goes dead, and his agility degrades to that of a tank.  When he does not want to stop he sets his muscles and bulls ahead, ignoring all rein aids, as I learned once again as I tried to stop him a few steps from the gate.  To Bingo, the proper way to stop is to ignore all aids until his breast is pressing against the fence, and then he will stop with his head hanging over the fence.  I had been avoiding stopping my ride at the gate, but it was so hot on Wednesday I just did not have the extra energy to walk through the deep sand from the middle of the ring to the gate.  So when Bingo finally stopped I told him to back up several steps and to stand still for a minute before I dismounted.

On Friday I got to ride Mia and introduce her to the flysheet.  After Mia thoroughly enjoyed me using my HandsOn grooming gloves, my husband groomed her the rest of the way while I collapsed in front of the fan.  After I rasped down a chip in her left front hoof, my husband and I tacked her up.  First the saddle pads, then the flysheet, “buckling” the front Velcro strap, straightening out the flysheet, the attaching the girth under the sides of the flysheet.  The I put on the neck cover, and, instantly, Mia was not happy with the universe.  I did not really notice her ears (covered with the loose ear bonnet) until I put the bridle on.  Mia’s ears were BACK, her eyes looked sour, and she gave off vibes of great displeasure and unhappiness with the world.  I took off the neck cover, Mia’s ears came forward, and Mia looked cheerful again.  Fine, Mia does not like the neck cover, and since Mia is 30 years old I am not going to argue with her about it, just like I am not going to argue about the greatly feared flywhisk. 

Otherwise, Mia was fine, and I had a pleasant walk with her.  I am grabbing every chance I have to ride Mia.  One of Mia’s previous owners contacted Debbie to tell her that she, the previous owner, finally got a farm set up and that when Debbie decided that Mia was ready to be retired she could take Mia back and retire her on her farm.  Debbie wants to get more weight on Mia first, she did not come out of this past winter as good as the previous winters, so Mia is getting brought in a few more times a day for extra feedings.  Mia may be ancient, Mia may not be totally sound, Mia may not be too terribly energetic, but Mia is a pure Arab mare and once she leaves there are no other Arabs I can ride at the stable.  I think that Debbie is going to keep Mia during the summer so I have someone to ride while Debbie uses Bingo in her group lessons on Friday mornings. 

While I rode Mia, I watched Bingo in the group lesson.  There is no way around it, Bingo looks like a plug.  Thick throatlatch, extremely high croup, straight/ewe neck, and a muddy buckskin, Bingo looks common, especially in contrast to Mia, the beautiful red-bay pure Arab mare.  However I have faith, that with proper training and conditioning, Bingo’s top line will start filling out, his thick throatlatch may be reduced a tiny bit, and as I get the sling muscles in his shoulder stronger his front hand will elevate somewhat.  Podhajsky writes that proper training will make the ugliest horse more beautiful, well with Bingo I will finally find out if that is true!  Of course, Bingo has the advantage of one of the most beautiful, laid back and unflappable personalities I have found in a horse.  Beauty on the inside does overcome ugliness on the outside, and I would rather ride a pleasant horse any day over a beautiful frantic idiot.

Especially since I get so heat sick after just twenty minutes in the saddle.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran      

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