The wait for my first horse continues. I still haven’t even started saving yet, but the conversation over what kind I want is a frequent one between myself and a particular friend. As I grew up staring goggle-eyed at my favourite event riders, my heart is still somewhat set on a big, shiny sport horse (Thoroughbred, Warmblood, Hanoverian, Trakehner… something with that kind of stamp to it has always been my fantasy). They can be impractical, delicate creatures, because I would also like a horse who can be a horse: one who can cope with living out at least part-time year-round, who hopefully doesn’t need five rugs, and I’m quite keen on the idea of him being barefoot (curiously, the gender of my horse is the thing I get teased for the most – I’m absolutely determined not to have a mare, and my friend is now convinced that’s what I’ll get).
Rather than setting my heart on a colour, breed or age, I’m trying to consider what I’d like to do with my mythical horse. Though “like” and “achieve” are clearly different things here. I still quite like the idea of sailing around Badminton, but I have neither the talent nor guts, so I needed some other ideas.
“You know,” Jo said to me one day, “one of my friends describes her horse as a ‘performance trail horse’ – she can take him down any track and get through anything. He’s just a really great horse for riding out. There’s no shame in that. There doesn’t have to be a goal.”
And I was sold. Because, although horses are my future career, does it really have to be super-technical all the time? Is it not supposed to be about what I enjoy the most? And if that is simply to be able to see over hedges and not have my horse fly sideways if a bird pops out at him, is there a problem?
Then Jo sealed the deal by showing me this:
Done. Sign me up. But, oh, the internet is a dangerous thing, because another friend showed me this:
At this point, I’ll throw in that I don’t condone the helmetlessness of these riders, and that I fully intend to continue wearing my helmet (I see no problem with dressing up and putting a wig on top of my helmet to complete any appropriate look!). But Western riding is so much more than I ever gave it credit for. Laura Sumrall’s ride has gone somewhat viral. The thing I took away from watching further videos of that particular competition was the parallels to freestyle dressage, but the huge differences – how great is it that the crowd get to cheer, and show their appreciation during the performance?! You can see horse and rider lift themselves when they get that feedback, and they look so excited, rather than stiffly focused as riders often do during a Kur. Riding is fun! If we look like we’re enjoying ourselves, how many more people might we inspire to take up the reins?
So much like the eyebrows which go up when you see a coloured horse or pony glide into the dressage arena in a perfect extended trot, I may well garner some surprised looks if freestyle reining makes it to the UK and I perform a sliding stop on either my current ride (a 15hh Irish cob who looks like he’s the horse from Disney’s Brave) or my hypothetical future ride (a 17hh European sport horse), that’s something that I think would be a lot of fun. As well as being to ride him out with the peace of mind that, if something does surprise us, we’ll cope and carry on. Or that we’ll go backwards across a wobbly bridge without a bridle. Or that, like the man in the video below, I won’t need a step ladder (because I’m horrible at taking leg ups) to mount my horse bareback:
For now, it’s time to step away from the internet before I get too many ideas…