Back in Lesson #99, Pete caught me mounting Dromie from her right side. Mounting is properly done from the horse’s left side.
“So, Pete, what you’re saying is that left is right and right is wrong … right?”
Oh, the feeble foundations of pun-based irony. But it was fun to say.
Pete didn’t miss a beat, “Well, yeah. Do you know how that got started?”
He obviously saw this as an opportunity to share an equestrian related historical tidbit. So many equestrian related historical tidbits have to do with military riding. Remember, Xenophon, the gentleman who came up with classic dressage, was an army guy. I took a shot:
“Something to do with cavalry, I’m guessing?”
“Yes, you’re right. Back when the cavalry used swords, riders normally hung them on their left sides, since most mounted troops where right handed. You don’t want to try getting on a horse with your sword in the wrong place.”
This made immediate sense to me. Razor sharp objects dangling in that region present a clear and unpleasant danger. This equestrian stuff is tricky enough as it is without that kind of thing going on.
“At least that’s what they say, it could be a lot of different reasons,” added Pete, making room for the miscellaneous that makes up the majority of human experience.
In any case, mounting from the left side of the horse is a strong tradition in the equestrian world. And it’s good to be aware of this, because while horses should be trained to accept riders mounting from either side, you just never know. And not knowing could get you kicked or worse.
You can never assume what a horse knows and what he doesn’t. Because it’s not unusual for horses to go through several careers and have multiple handlers in a lifetime.
Dromie herself is a good example of that. I know her as sweet and passive, a semi-retired babysitter. But according Mike Strauss, Dromie’s trainer from age 8 – he still refers to her as “my girl” – until she was retired to Kim and Pete, she was a “true alpha” in her early years:
“Put her in a field of horses and she quickly had them all in line!”
And Dromie was an accomplished alpha. “In 2005 she carried the Topaz Vaulting team to being the National Trot Champions and has often been named best trot horse in the show,” Mike tells us.
And like Karin’s horses, Dromie has always known how to take care of people. Mike shared this story:
“Before we got her she was owned by a breeder here in Virginia and had two foals of her own. One day some of the girls at that farm went out riding and one of them threw a saddle on Dromie and they had a great ride. On returning they were met by the breeder who was standing at the fence laughing. What was so funny? Well, he said, you should have asked about Andromeda (Dromie), she’s never had a saddle or been ridden before!”
Yes, a horse can experience all kinds of career changes in the course of a lifetime. Sometimes it has to with training or with changes in the horse’s health. But often as not, it has something to with changes that we go through: school, work, marriage, family or even changes in our health. And sometimes horses that are accustomed to a lot of human interaction go through periods where they don’t get much attention at all.
Meanwhile, there is always some horse crazy kid out there – the kind that has it really, really bad – wishing, longing, obsessing for a horse of her own. In a storybook universe, the two would inevitably connect, simply because that’s the way it ought to be. In ours, the connection is made because someone – a parent, a mentor, a friend, sometimes a entire little network of people – made it happen.
In the next two posts, I’m going share a little story of how one such connection was made.