I can’t even remember how old I was when I first rode but I was young when a few of us started riding a couple of knackered, barely broken horses an old guy owned and kept in a shitty field behind the crummy council estate house where I lived.
Everyone within a five mile radius of us was incredibly poor so when I first found a love of horses, it didn’t involve regular visits from a farrier or expensive tack. It was a frayed head-collar and lead-rein and the luxury of one brush to get off all the dried mud before you jumped on bareback. One brush. Looking back, those poor horses weren’t looked after at all well and had a crap diet, probably never saw a farrier their whole life and must’ve been achy and fed up but I used my spending money to buy them treats and did what I could. 😦
Anyway, I rode like that for about five or six years and learned how to jump fallen trees and brooks and generally ride / control a horse mostly with the use of body movement and voice. I couldn’t tell you how or why I could but over time, I developed a knack for getting the horse to understand what I wanted from him. I’d just know what he was thinking, if he was a bit dubious to jump or whether he’d picked up on my vibes and was going for it. Sounds ridiculous to say but the best way of describing it is that there was an almost telepathic way of communicating.
Sussing all this out meant I fell off a LOT and was threatened with being stopped from ever going near a horse again by my Mother who still reckons the A & E department must have more pictures of my head than she has.
The falling or being thrown off meant I soon learned how to not fall off or easily be thrown so in time, I became a good rider although I didn’t realise how good until later when I accidentally met a chap in his 50’s or 60’s called Harry. Harry was one of these rich, landrover driving, wax-jacket wearing blokes that probably owned half the land in Britain but argued the price of fresh air.
When he learned I was poorer than a shithouse rat, couldn’t tack up and hadn’t had a single riding lesson my whole life. Harry let me ride his / his daughter’s horses (proper ones – stables, decent feed, tack and shoes) With that came an introduction to his daughter Linda, who was the epitome of a “Daddy’s girl” and hated me from the outset really although I was probably oblivious to it at first.
Next thing you know, I’m sat in a saddle with a proper set of reins in my hands riding a horse that was actually well schooled. Took a bit of getting used to but over time I was introduced to other “proper” horsey folk, most of whom were initially friendly until they discovered how and where I’d learned to ride. “Woodlands and Playing Fields” and “Some disused land near the scrapyard” didn’t go down at all well. Apart from the odd one or two, the vast majority were just awful to me. Absolutely horrible, snobby, unpleasant people.
To make matters worse, I was a good rider even though I didn’t ride “properly” – as in know the finer details of riding etiquette but I was still better with horses and it riled them. They looked down their noses and talked amongst themselves about how I was a charity case and loudly tutted and said things like “She takes ages to tack up” or “She doesn’t even sit properly if you look closely”
There was this ridiculous element of shame involved with me having never had a single riding lesson but even then I thought “Yeah but I still ride better and can get more from your horses than you can so what does it matter how I do it?”
Even though some tried making me see it as something I should view as my motivation or positive, I was just too young and lacked the self-assurance and confidence so after a while it wore me down and I stopped going to shows or hanging around with any horsey people at all.
I’m now older, wiser, with more money and a love of horses now as I did back then but guess what I learned this weekend?
Apparently, my former (and still sometimes preferred) way of riding is a “thing” which has meant a decent living for the select few.
Honestly. It’s now described as “Natural Horsemanship” and is no longer seen as being sinful, shameful or against the law in the world of horsey people. It’s a sodding skill.
If and when I see Linda again, I’ll mention this to her and see what she says.
But Stacy Westfall & Co – Where the hell were you lot when I needed you back in the 80’s???