Stirring it up

What I like best about taking lessons at Karin’s Horse Connection is the variety. I’ve lost track of how many different combinations of horses and saddles I’ve been on.  And I’m not going to count them, just for the sake of knowing the number.  Not knowing provides a tinge of plausibility to exaggeration and I put a premium on the opportunity to embellish.  Ignorance has its uses and I intend to get the most out of it.

Every lesson introduces me to something new that I didn’t know about horses and riding – almost to the point where I’m thinking these folks are making it up as they go along. How would I know?

In my last lesson, Karin was off on another continent again and unless I wanted to receive my instruction via cell phone or give mental telepathy a go, I had the choice of skipping this time or have a substitute instructor. I hate skipping. There’s just no point in it. Plus, it’s fun to stir it up a bit and experience different instructional approaches and meet new people.

So Karin sent Brenda in her place. Brenda is a knowledgeable horseperson with over 30 years of experience, including a stint as an instructor at a horse camp where she taught around 40 kids a day.  I would be a piece of cake.

Brenda and her bucket

Brenda’s daughter takes vaulting lessons with Karin. Her son is the young man with the donkey that was the Hit of Karin’s Horse Connection Trail Mix Fun Fest back in August.  Everyone loves donkeys.

I’ve never met a horseperson who wasn’t interesting. This may be because everyone is interesting and I normally don’t take the time to find out, but with horsepeople, I’m motivated to listen better.

Brenda was interesting not just because of her breadth of horse knowledge, but also because of how she got into horses.  It was her dad’s fault.

Apparently, when Brenda was very young – around 4, I think – her family lived in a rural area and had horses and whatnot. Then, they moved to a place where there wasn’t room for a horse. And whatnot was totally out of the question. But that didn’t stop Brenda’s father from buying her a pony anyway. Go, dad, go.

As so often happens, what the father did failed to correspond with what Brenda’s mother wanted done.  Brenda’s mother was no horseperson and wanted nothing to do with this madness. While her father was comfortable with horses, his career as a golf pro often required that he work up to 90 hours a week. This left Brenda’s mother in charge of handling Brenda and her pony.

The dilemma was resolved when they got Brenda into a 4-H group.  With 4-H, Brenda could (in theory) learn all what she needed to know in order to become a fully functioning horseperson. Meanwhile, her mother found her niche in the club by contributing her much needed bookkeeping and administrative skills. She did this happily over several years. This made 4-H a family endeavor and thus paved the way for Brenda’s long equestrian career.

Because Brenda’s father was willing to risk upsetting the apple cart at home, his daughter became an accomplished horseback rider and was able to bequeath her love of things equine to her son and daughter.

So yes, sometimes it’s good just to ignore the obstacles and stir it up a bit and see what happens.

The only loser in this scenario is me, because now I’m left once again risking a brain hernia as I strain with all my might to resist the word play that naturally and powerfully come to mind whenever donkeys are in the picture.

Next time, I’ll tell you what Brenda taught me.

Goldie and My Victorious Ride

My blue ribbon is now hanging on a lampshade in our living room. I don’t know who put it there, but I like it. We have yet to designate a room or a pole building to display all the ribbons, trophies, glassware and plates that I am sure to win down the road.

I received the ribbon for a first place finish in walk-trot on Karin’s horse, Goldie. I won this class by employing a sophisticated strategy:  I entered. Apparently, no one else thought of using this strategy because I was the sole Wheat Chex competitor in walk trot. Thus, I was unbeatable.

Actually, I was in the ring with several other riders, which gave the appearance that I was competing. Of course, I was older and out-weighed all the other riders combined.

I was expecting to ride Maree in walk trot, but someone else was already on her and I think they have rules against riding double in this class. The change to Goldie was yet another last second adjustment by Karin in a day full of last second adjustments. She quickly saddled Goldie – who had been standing in her stall, just minding her own business – while the other riders patiently waited for the late entrant. As Karin tightened up the saddle straps, she made this announcement: “She doesn’t like to go.”

Oh, we were going to make a fine team.

Strategy Conference


She was just minding her own business

As I led Goldie into the ring and toward the Ceremonial Mounting Block, I hesitated for a moment, thinking maybe I should at least try to mount my horse like the other competitors. But it’s unlikely any of their moms could lift me up that high, so I just followed Karin.

As I stepped up to the mounting block, Karin called for a whip.

No turning back now

This was totally unnecessary and I told Karin so. I had no intention of backing out now.

“It’s for Goldie, Bob.”

Ah, more strategy. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the whip. I thought about just putting it in my pocket or holding it in my teeth. I couldn’t just hand it back to Karin. She saw my consternation and told me I could put it in either my left or right hand and use the remaining hand for the reins. This was getting interesting.

I didn’t want to whip Goldie. I wanted her to like me. But after a few moments on her, I understood what Karin meant by “she doesn’t like to go” and I figured out that the whip wasn’t meant for actual whipping, but more to annoy the horse into moving forward.  And annoyance is something I’m good at.

I patted Goldie’s behind with the whip and forward we went. Sometimes at a walk and sometimes at a trot. Sometimes because the judge said so and sometimes just because. I didn’t want to get too close to the other riders, because who knows what would happen, so I sort of did my own circles around the ring. These became increasingly smaller, until I was basically just riding right around the judge.  Finally, the judge had enough.

Circling the judge

“Okay, that’s enough,” she said. “You can line up now.”

What a feeling. This had been the best ride of my equestrian career and I got to use strategy. Of course “I entered” did not guarantee me a ribbon. Had others in my age group used the same strategy, my placing would have been equal to the number of other riders plus one. But at that moment, they could eat cake and the blue ribbon was mine.

Next time I would like to discuss something I learned while participating in the Trail Mix Fun Fest about how humans communicate with horses.

The Trail Mix Fun Fest

Now that was fun.

It’s been a long, long time since Jenny and I have participated in any kind of horse show. It brought back a lot of memories from the days when Jamie and Hiliary showed and we were just two bewildered parents wondering how we got into all of this.

One thing in particular it brought back was that peculiar exhaustion you feel by the time you get home. We can go for a fifty-mile bike ride, come home and walk the dog a couple miles, follow that up with an hour or two of yard work and still not feel as tired as we did on Saturday night.  On Saturday night, Jenny and I were Horse Show Tired.

It’s a peculiar brand of tired because, for some reason I have yet to understand, it feels good.

If we were tired, Karin must have gone home and collapsed.  She was at the epicenter of what could only be described as “organized chaos”.  It was a small show, I’m guessing maybe 15-20 riders total and most were under the age of 12. But if I’m not mistaken, the majority of the horses in the ring at any given time were Karin’s horses and she was in perpetual motion making sure everyone who wanted to participate had a ride.  She was like a director in a Bruce Willis action film, keeping things moving along in some semblance of the right direction, constantly bombarded with questions and requests, making ten decisions a minute. When she did sit down, it was on a horse or a donkey (please note: I am doing everything humanly possible to keep from making the obvious pun here). Through it all Karin managed to keep a calm, even temper.  I know I couldn’t do it.

Karin sits down

Through it all, I could tell she was having a blast.

It’s not that Karin didn’t have any help. There were several parents there and a couple of the mothers helped with things like registration and handing out ribbons. Anytime Karin said she needed help, two or three volunteers jumped right in. The older kids watched out for the younger kids – and anyone else who needed help.

The whole atmosphere was easy going and family friendly.

I think the biggest fun was watching the kids and the way they related to the horses. I was almost envious of their easy confidence and the way the horses responded to them.  And it was refreshing not to see any of the spoiled brat or Horse Show Princess Prima Donna kind of behavior that is so common in other show venues. These were just kids having a ball.

It is natural, almost expected, that girls at some point before the age of twelve are going to go through a horse crazy phase.  For some, that’s all it is – a phase. Later on, they develop other interests and the horse mania passes.  For others, it’s a very real passion that they will have for the rest of their lives.  I got the impression that most of the kids we saw on Saturday have the genuine, long lasting brand of horse craziness.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the real stars of this show: Caspian, Avenior, Charlie, Goldie, Maree, the rest of Karin’s horses I haven’t met yet, the horses people brought in trailers and the donkey.  Please excuse any misspellings and all the horses I neglected to mention because I don’t know their names yet.

As for me, I didn’t chicken out. I got to go in four events: showmanship, walk-trot, the don’t-spill-the-M&M’s game and vaulting for first timers. I came home with a blue ribbon. Next time, I’ll share with you the strategy I used to win it.


Preparing for the Show: Part One

Okay now, this horse show thing is getting a little too real. I mean, tonight Jenny and I are going shopping for riding boots.  I’m thinking that once I have boots, I will have crossed a line and there will be no going back.

I’m wondering if there is some psychological process I should be going through to help prepare.  I checked my favorite blog, Confessions of a Struggling Dressage Rider, for inspiration/motivation, but all SDR says is that even I can “ride on the bit” if I “sit like a proper girl while wearing a dress”.

I’m sorry, I can’t do that. Even if I knew what “ride on the bit” means, I just don’t have time for any extra shopping. Not to mention the hefty psycho/socio adjustments I would have to make.

I was actually hoping for something more in the area of mental imagery.  I know that some competitive riders use mental imagery techniques to enhance their preparation and performance.

The idea is pretty simple, really. By picturing an ideal ride in your head, your mind (which knows it’s a fantasy) delivers optimistic signals to your dumb body (which thinks it’s all real) and this results in tiny, but tangible variations in your physical contact with the horse. Since horses are extremely sensitive to any kind of contact, they are able to pick up on these little signals and will respond accordingly.

My big concern with all of this is that, in order for it to work, you have to know what you’re doing in the first place.  For instance, sometimes I find myself pulling back on the reins while simultaneously squeezing my legs.  This confuses the horse and all these tiny, cheerful signals just sort of bash their happy little heads directly into a thick wall of gross incompetence. Horses are great, but sometimes they just can’t help you.

This does not mean I will approach the show with a negative attitude.  I’ve seen with my own eyes how effective self-deluded people can be and I take comfort in knowing that you don’t necessarily have to have a firm grasp on reality to make things work.

Besides, the only reason anyone approaches a project with low expectations is so that they won’t be disappointed.  My goal is not to limit my disappointment. It’s to participate and have fun, see what happens, and then go home and drink beer.

In fact, I’m already imagining that.

This morning, I have my final lesson with Karin before the horse show. Patrick Stevens, the male national vaulting champion has been staying at Karin’s and he will be there. I think I’m going to get a vaulting lesson. That’ll be interesting.

A Lesson with Liz

Karin was not there for Lesson #5. I understand she was goofing off in Colorado. Something about her daughter Leoni and a national vaulting championship. For some reason, Karin felt she needed to be there instead of staying home and instructing me.

No matter. My daughter Jamie was up from Florida and she served as my audience, photographer and technique critic. Jamie has been riding for something like eighty years and knows a thing or two about horses. Just what does riding “collapsed” mean anyway?

Jamie and her horse Bert

As a substitute teacher, I got Liz Parmelee, another instructor at Karin’s Horse Connection. Liz doesn’t have as much experience as Karin, but she seems to know a lot and it was interesting getting a different instructional approach.

Substitute Teacher Liz

I’m thinking Liz is going to be a really good teacher. This is why:

A good teacher knows how to point out and correct mistakes, of course. But a really good teacher has a knack for finding some positive element in any performance (no matter how dreadful the performance) and uses this kernel (no matter how tiny a kernel) as a plausible basis for encouragement and positive reinforcement. It’s all about accepting the student where they are and getting them to go in the right direction. Sometimes, literally in the right direction.  In some instances, this may require the imagination of a J.K. Rowling and the patience of a Chicago Cubs fan.

With her calm, sweet demeanor Liz displayed both of these qualities. She started by putting me on Maree and having us do some figure 8s around barrels.  After a few rounds of this, I looked back at our footprint pattern and what I saw looked more like one of Jamie’s early crayon doodles on our living room wall than the number 8. I’m not sure what Maree was thinking.

Does this look like an 8 yet?

Then Liz had us practice some around-the-arena trotting. This went well except at the corners, which Maree took to mean, “stop trotting”.

Liz said “When you feel her start to do that, just get your legs on her.”

I felt proud that I knew what Liz meant by that.  However, when I did get my legs on Maree, I discovered that not only did this keep her going, but that she had another level of trot. From my perspective and experience level, it was a particularly violent and chaotic level of trot. And I lost control.

Maree, being the trooper she is, figured one of us should be in charge, she so she took over and – just like the last lesson – we headed toward the center of the arena where Liz was positioned.  This sent Liz dodging to one side to avoid being decked.

Now, I’m new at this, but that’s something I’m just not going to take.  I made Maree get right back to the edge and we tried the same thing again. And Maree did the same thing again.  And I found myself rushing toward Liz again.  But this time, the young instructor stood her ground like one of Wellington’s grenadiers at Waterloo and Maree bounced to a halt right in front of her.

It occurred to me that this was the closest I would ever come in my life to participating in a cavalry charge. I thought about asking Liz where Karin keeps the sabers, but I figured she had been through enough.

I was determined not to let this happen again. Apparently, Maree sensed my determination and we did a couple of cycles without incident. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but at least we weren’t threatening anyone.

And then Liz found the kernel: “I like how you’re keeping her from running me over.”

I think to show that there was no hard feelings Liz taught me how to neck rein. I liked doing that.

Liz's horse Danny

As Jamie and I drove away from Lamoreaux Ridge, I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment in that I was leaving behind an instructor who was alive and uninjured. That’s the sort of thing you can definitely build on.

The next day, I got an email from Karin. It included these words: “I thought you could do a showmanship class with Caspian, one walk/trot class on Maree, and one of the fun classes like M&M and Spoon for example. If you do a vaulting class in the walk you get an extra pat on the shoulder!”

I told Karin that sounds like fun.

So it looks like I’ll be mounting a horse for this show after all.  Somebody needs to warn the judge.

Jamie finds a peanut

From a Blueberry to Wheat Chex

Just before my last lesson with Karin, I went on-line to check my favorite horse riding blogs, hoping for some inspiration. On Confessions of a Struggling Dressage Rider,  the blogger was concerned about becoming a “Blueberry”.  Apparently, a Blueberry is a rider who forgets, of all things, to breathe. And I thought I was easily distracted.

As a remedy to this troublesome oversight, the Struggling Dressage Rider recommends singing and talking to oneself while in the saddle. While this is the sort of thing I like to do anyway (I thought something from the Monkees or one of Lincoln’s speeches whilst mounted would do nicely) I really don’t know Karin well enough to say that she would let this behavior go without comment. In any case, a breathless rendition of I’m a Believer at the trot couldn’t possibly be pretty, so I figured it was best for me to forget it and just be quiet.

Of course, thinking about breathing wasn’t the problem during my lesson. Just thinking at all was the problem. The brain freeze (I hover around 35 degrees in any case) was brought on while we were saddling my new best friend, Maree the oh-so-sweet Quarter horse, when Karin dropped this bucket of ice directly in the center of my brain:

“You’re going to show at the end of the month.”

I was not ready for another human being to say those words to me.

“You mean with a horse?”

Karin gave me the Oh-But-Of-Course-You-Are Look.  “Yes, why not?”

I was articulate as fork load of spaghetti. “Because… well… I wasn’t expecting…. I didn’t think… you know… no one said … not ready?”

Showing horses is not the sort of thing I do. She should know that.

“You can show Caspian in the halter.”

So, as of this writing, I don’t think I’m actually going to be on a horse during the show. But still.

As a point of information, the show is being held right here at Karin’s Horse Connection at the Lamoreaux Ridge Equestrian Center on August 27.

It looks like it’s going to be a fun sort of show, but it also looks like a real show – with judges and ribbons and witnesses. The name of the show is the Trail Mix Fun Fest. This name allows Karin to tag each age category as a food group, thusly:

Ages 5 and under: Sunflower Seeds

Age 6-9: Peanuts

Age 10-12: M&Ms

Age 13-16: Pretzels

Age 17-25: Cashews

Age 26-54: Wheat Chex

Age 55+: Raisins

So, I begin the day concerned about becoming a Blueberry and – since I’m 27 – end as a Wheat Chex.  This is progress.  Right?

Click on Karin’s Horse Connection tab on the top of this page for all the info for this show that looms in my all-to-near future.

In my next posting, I’ll tell you how my lesson went with this troubling information on my mind.

Equestrian Kindergarten

For Lesson #2 in Equestrian Kindergarten, daughter Hiliary came with me to take photos.  As we drove away after the lesson, I turned to her and said, “I have a lot more respect now for what you girls used to do at the shows.”

Hiliary nodded, “Yeah, it’s not an easy thing to do.”

The new rider has so many things to think about: the proper way to mount the horse, the correct placement of your feet in the stirrups, the best way to hold the reins, the proper way to sit…  The list goes on forever.  I’m sure a lot of it comes with practice.  And no doubt, the important thing isn’t to get it all right all at once, but simply establish good riding habits from the beginning.

I got to ride Caspian again.  Karin gave me a choice between using the vaulting saddle like we did the first time or graduate to a real saddle.  I picked real saddle. And Western. I just don’t understand English saddles.

It was a beautiful summer morning, but before we ventured outside, we warmed up in the indoor arena.  As I maneuvered the big guy in between the little white pylons Karin had placed on the ground, I tried to remember everything I had been taught.

We did well, but I was under no illusions of who was making this go so smoothly. Caspian is a flat-out All Star. While I’m sure that good riding takes skill and dedication, what really impresses me is the effort and commitment it takes to train a horse to the point where he even notices your good riding habits.

Karin continually reminded me that I was the leader and that it was my job to continually remind Caspian of the fact. We were to turn when I decided to turn, stop when I decided to stop, and moved forward when I decided to go.  And that if we ended up on the far side of the arena staring out the door at the other horses in the pasture, it better be because I was in the mood to play with them and eat grass.

Being the leader got tougher after we went outside. I wanted to just kind of mentally drift off and enjoy the sun and fresh morning air.  Maybe think about what I might have for lunch, what’s on TV tonight and how it looks like we might have an NFL season after all – and leave all the thinking to the horse.

Class is outside today

In truth, I got away with some of that. Mainly because Karin was leading us from the front on Rambo and Caspian was following suit.  Rambo is a rather tall pony, but from the summit of Mt. Caspian, Karin looked she was riding a tricycle.  At one point, she turned to me and said that next time we would trade horses.  I told her that would be great.  A Kindergartener should never argue with Teacher. Then she chuckled. She messes with me like that sometimes.

We got to go out into the woods a bit and came back alive and unharmed.  It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to do it again.

Out of the woods and all is well.

I also got a lesson in basic horse anatomy, but more on that next time.




A Short Ride

“Remember the horse is very sensitive.  If they can feel a fly, they can certainly feel you.”

Toward the end of my first lesson Karin, decided a little time in the saddle might be good for me. Or maybe she thought fifteen minutes of being led around in circles by an awkward greenhorn was enough for Caspian. It’s never a good idea to allow something that big to get too bored. She threw a saddle pad across his back, followed by the vaulting saddle.

“You can use this one today. Don’t worry, I won’t make you do any handstands.”

I wouldn’t even try that trick on flat ground. But I was happy about using the vaulting saddle. I had my eye on that puppy the moment I walked into the barn. I liked the handles.

“Karin, I brought my bike helmet.  Should I use it?”  I was anxious to demonstrate my interest in safety awareness. Teachers like that.

Karin smiled and said the helmet had to be the Standard Regulation Officially Endorsed Sanctioned Licensed Certified kind. My bike helmet did not qualify.

Good advice from Karin's wall

“You can use one of mine. If you can make it fit.”

Ah, yes, the “Dork Helmet”.  I used to tease the girls about how they looked in theirs. Probably shouldn’t have done that. I wasn’t sure if it was my size, but I strapped it on anyway.

The first thing I noticed when I got on Caspian was how darn wide he was. This is why everyone said I was going to be sore.  I thought back to my old cowboy and Indian toys, how bowlegged and absurd the riders looked when they weren’t mounted.  How you had to swing their entire bodies back and forth to simulate walking. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they walk like that.

At first, Karin led us around the arena. They were having Riding Camp at the barn that day and a small knot of kids began to gather to watch the middle aged guy in his dork helmet take his pony ride.  At least I was on the biggest horse in the barn.

After a couple of short loops, Karin released Caspian and we were flying solo. Well, not flying exactly.

“It’s the same as when you led him on the ground.  Shift your body weight and combine it with the inflection in your voice to communicate what you want. The reigns should only account for twenty-five percent of how you cue him.”

I did my best. Caspian responded to my cues like an old pro, no doubt sensing my inexperience and trying to help any way he could. I probably exaggerated my body shifts a bit too much, actually feeling like I might slip off one side or the other.  I think the kids would have enjoyed that.

Riding Camp was about to start so I only had about five minutes in the saddle.  Enough to know that there is an art to this riding thing.

My next lesson is June 30, 8 a.m.  I have no idea what is going to happen.


My First Lesson: Karin’s New Blank Page

Karin got right to the point: “I’m not going to ask you what you want to do.”

That was good, because I didn’t know I what I wanted to do. My plan was to just show up and see what happens next.

By the end of the lesson, I was beginning to understand why Karin takes this approach.

Karin and one of her "peanuts"

I didn’t spend much time riding. And that was another thing Karin told me right away: “We’re probably not going to get you on a horse today.” She changed her mind later and toward the end of the lesson I got to spend a few minutes learning the proper way to say “whoa” and “giddy up”.

We started with the halter. Under normal circumstances, I do okay with halters – as long as the thing remains untangled.  But once one section gets twisted around or gets turned inside out, a halter becomes a Chinese puzzle for me and the more I mess with it the worse it gets.  In the old days, I would just hand it to one of the girls or go get another one.

Karin deliberately tangled it up and looked at me.

I stepped back and put my hands up. “Please, don’t do that!”

She chuckled and put it on the horse herself.

The horse was Caspian, a nine-year-old, 17.2 hands Percheron-Thoroughbred. Karin got him about four years ago.

“He was completely unbroken, no training at all. He was a blank page. And I wrote on him.”

I thought, “Now you have another blank page to work on.  And never mind the doodles – just write around them.”

In four years, Karin has turned Caspian into a good boy. I’m glad of that, because this big guy was our demo horse for the brushing lesson.  First with the currycomb, top to bottom, front to back. Followed by the regular brush, same pattern. Karin demonstrated on one side of Caspian, I returned the demonstration on the other.

Wouldn't hurt to stand a little closer

Karin patted the top of the horse’s rear.  “The kids always miss this part.”

As we led Caspian into the arena, Karin explained how it is for horses in nature – how they follow the lead horse and how their sensitivity toward each other’s movements and body language allow them to gallop in a tight pack without running into each other.

“Imagine a mob of people trying to do this.  What would happen?”

I wanted to make a reference to the Detroit Lion’s offense, but I settled for: “They would stumble all over each other and somebody would get trampled.”

“That’s right. Now you have to be the lead horse and get them to respond to your movements. Use your body to communicate with the horse.”

She led Caspian around the arena, turning her shoulders to cue the horse on the direction she wanted to go. It was pretty cool.

Karin gave a quick tug on the lead rope.  “Even this is too much weight.  Leave slack in the line.”

It occurred to me that the rope isn’t for the horse. It’s for us.

Then, I got my turn. Holding the lead rope a few inches to the front and side of Caspian’s mouth, I squared my shoulders and we walked.

“Also use your voice in combination with your body.  And look in the direction you want to go.”

It was working. I didn’t have to pull on the lead line at all. The horse was responding to my physical cues, not the tug of the rope.  We went all around the arena, snaking through old tires Karin had laid on the ground.  We stopped when I wanted to stop and proceeded when I decided to go. I thought about the direction I wanted to go first, and then I cued Caspian. I’ve led a lot of horses – to and from the barn and pasture, etc., etc., etc., – but I never did it this way. This was fun.

Keep the slack in the rope

I think this what I need to learn first: to communicate with these guys on their terms.  I’m guessing all the technical riding stuff of the various disciplines doesn’t mean much until that fundamental lesson is learned.

I got chance to ride Caspian a bit at the end, but I’ll tell you about that next time.

New friends


I’ve been getting a lot of advice on how to approach my first lesson.  I appreciate all of it. One way or another. Here are some samplings:

“You have to wear a helmet. You have to. You have to.”

“You are going to be really, really sore.”

“Pull back to stop. Left on the reins to go left and right to go right. Driving a car is more complicated.”

“Show up early for your lesson.”

“Allow yourself to get to ‘know’ horses. Spend time just watching them, being around them and observing.”

“Hit the horse in the ribs.”

“You should wear chaps. Much better than riding in jeans.”

“Don’t go.”

“Western is easier. You should do that.”

“Chaps?…. No, please. … Please, no…. Don’t”

“Don’t be afraid of the horse or the horse will be in control. Let the horse know that you’re the boss.”

“Their body language will speak volumes and if you fall just get back on.”

“I tried to ride once and I fell into a pile of horse crap.”

“You don’t need lessons to ride a horse. The horse all ready knows what to do.”

“Try stretching before and after the ride. Take ibuprofen before the ride. Drink beer after the ride. Do not mix up the order of these last two suggestions!”

“Bring your balls, because they can be intimidating at 1200 pounds.”

“Take lots of pictures.  I want to see some pictures.”

“Keep your heels down. You must keep your heels down. And keep your back straight.”

“You’re gonna love riding once you give it a try.”

Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., I am indeed going to give it a try…