HORSES AND I
I will be completely frank right upfront, I am not a horse expert. I will even admit that I am not a horse person, at least not like some individuals are; I am mostly sane. I do, however, like spending time with horses, for they are interesting creatures. A horse can change a persons perspective about life in so many ways. I suppose that one must mention that a historical perspective must be added to fully embrace the horse experience. You would think that having to mention history in relation to horses would be redundant, horses are our history, aren’t they? Why else would people spend so much time and money to experience that particular mode of transportation. There are many reasons to muck about with horses.
In my youth I had a horse friend. His name was Chief, and he was a horse. I spent summers with Chief, we spent much time trying to teach each other things. I taught him to ignore gunfire, I could shoot over his saddle and roll pop cans for as long as his grass was good. I could coax him to run or walk, he didn’t care; he was too fat to run much. He taught me vigilance. If we were out riding together, and I started daydreaming too much, Chief pulled something. Trying to saw your leg on barbwire, run under a low branch or grain auger, equine panic attack (fake) over a (the third) grouse were all part of his repertoire. We had an understanding, and a lot of fun together. In hind sight Chief was a teddy bear, as long as ya watched him. The picture to the right is my great grandmother, on Chief. She was 76 years old.
I got busy with my life and was away from horses for awhile, the odd dude ranch or friends horses was all the riding I got. Then I married a girl who liked horses, and had many of the same childhood experiences as I. No, she was not a rabid horse person, just felt positive about having horses someday. Then I bought land and we had a daughter (and later, a son) together, destiny declared my continued relationship with the equine species.
Fences were built and shelters contrived, many a book was read. We entered the horse world bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready for success, we got an education instead. Trying to pair horses with adolescents is an education in and of itself, we got an “f” a few times before success was to be had. Horses are individuals, they have their own personality and quirks; some of them are crazy. Much like people are.
If I can give any advice to people trying to pair up children (or beginners of all stripes) and horses, it’s this. Buy your kid an old horse and some basic riding lessons. An old horse that has been there and done that will give the beginner confidence and the lessons will give consistent direction. Ignore the patchy hair and the bow in the back (I’m talking about the horse), the investment is not in the animal, but the experience.
We learned all our lessons the hard way, we were sold crazy horses and broken saddles. These things didn’t happen all at once of course, we weren’t completely clueless, just humbled a lot. We trusted “experts”, that gave us an education every time, sometimes the education didn’t involve pain and suffering. We always got back in the saddle however, even with cracked ribs. If the equine bug bites you, your drawn to the experience. The peaceful rides and the experience of nature, while you ride on nature itself. The training and working with a horse to bring about the joining of you and your animal, the act of making the horse bow to your will. Just getting to know your horse, as an individual, it all has a magic to it. Mankind and horses, it will never go away.
“…FASTER HORSES, YOUNGER WOMEN…”
Some individuals are completely loony when it comes to horses, most of the loonies are women. Not trying to start a fight or anything, but its true, many horsewomen are crazier than bedbugs in a moonshine jar. The anthropomorphizing of horses knows no bounds with some individuals, too much time spent with Flika and Black Beauty me thinks. I mean horses are awesome and everything, but they’re animals. Giving horses human qualifiers and feelings in your imagination is a good way to get hurt, or get driven crazy.
I think another reason there are so many crazy horsewomen is because there are so many female horse enthusiasts out there, they outnumber the men I think. Women are drawn to horses at a young age, I think it has to do with dreams of control and freedom. The girl dreams of a powerful and loyal companion that will respond to every nudge and command. The girl’s loyal steed will whisk them over the hills, free at last. Many girls lose interest in horses when they discover boys, hmmmm, have to think on that one.
Just like any other pursuit that has become a hobby instead of a necessity, everybody is trying to make money with it. Whereas a young lad of the Sioux nation was taught how to make a bridle out of rope, the beginning horse person is now faced with hundreds of tack choices, all as glittery (and as pricy) as women’s jewellery. Horse masters hold expensive courses and clinics on the newest way to train your horse, touting the ease with which one can gain control and ride beautifully. I once asked an older cowboy type (he’d been around the species all his life out of necessity) about a newer training philosophy. “Yeah” he replied, after pondering my question for a bit, “It probably works, if ya put the time into it”. He thought for a bit more, then said, “the same thing could be accomplished by an old cowboy in about 20 minutes”. He took a slurp of his coffee and added, “out behind the barn where no one sees”. I don’t necessarily agree, but I have the luxury of being gentle. Maybe in the past (when horses were vital tools of survival) things were much different. It gives a person a greater understanding of whips, spurs, iron shoes and steel bits.
HAVIN’ HORSES DON’T MEAN NUTHIN’………….UNTILL IT MEANS EVERTHIN’
This is so much a truth of history I could repeat the title a dozen times and write nothing else, it is the essence of my paper this time. Cultures, generals, kingdoms, and empires have ridden into destiny on horseback, the backbone of so many of man’s conquests. Even in the pursuit of peaceful crop production, a good team mean’t all the difference. A strong horse team and a good operator (working their a**s off) could farm much land, and grow an excess of food. In my own history there are stories of men who spent a winter living in a creek bank dugout for the winter. Sharing the shelter through blizzards and -40 C temps with their team, counting the days to spring. In the spring trees were cut down and stumps grubbed out to get enough land in crop so both the men and horses could keep body and soul together.
An excess of food builds a society/culture, health and growth depend on it, horses provided the muscle . Horses and their kind have also played the roll of transportation/trucking/communication conduits for a very long time. Mankind and horses are intertwined within the creation, you can find it in the guide. This biblical quote was used in a great movie about an actual great horse; Secretariat.
19 “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?
21 He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray.
22 He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’ He catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.
War and horses used to be inseparable. A good war horse was worth his weight in silver, guided by the riders knees and learning to rear and strike was the essence of the war horse . Some horses learned to love battle, and were revered as heroes. How many stories of mounted conquerers litter our history? The Mongels, the hussars, the Sioux, the cossacks; how many kingdoms and empires rose and fell from the backs of horses? Many horses (and their riders) died in battle before generals learned that the day of the heroic horse charge was over, maxim machine guns and barbed wire seen to that. It must be said though, even with all the techno marvels our society has produced, we are only an EMP attack away from our survival being intertwined with equine muscle once again.
And where would we be without horses in the great stories? Some true and others fiction, or fiction based on true stories. The prince and his steed, the cowboys loyal companion, Paul Reveres ride of warning, Lady Godiva’s ride through town. Horses are interwoven with humanity; history and tales, blood and glory, sweat and tears.
All of this swirls through my head when I deal with horses. It doesn’t swirl constantly, dealing with horses forces your mind into concentrating on the moment; in fact it’s vital. But riding horses does give a person time to reflect, they are not motorcycles. A person can view the countryside without hitting the ditch, or ponder life without hitting a tree. It’s different, you have to spot the tree that looks like a bear, or the bear that wanders out of the trees, ’cause you may be going somewhere else suddenly. If you’re out with other horses you have to understand herd dynamics a bit, but you can have conversations with companion riders. Some horses, just like some people, don’t like each other. Horses don’t think like we do, always be aware of that when dealing with them, you gotta be smarter than the horse.
It is hard to be smarter than the horse. Horses are super aware of everything and are hardwired with survival instincts. The history of mankind with horses also points to the fact that we are wired into their system. Horses can feel your fear, intimidation or anger. Horses can tell an old hand from a greenhorn within minutes. Horses reflect the soul of the rider like a mirror, and give back tenfold to those that truly understand them.
I feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to know some wonderful horses, I am learning each time I ride. Riding horses can build humility, as well as wisdom. In the end, the guide tells us, the earth’s last chapter will include some symbolic horses. There are four. A white one, a red one, a black one, and a pale one.