Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finally, out of the barn

When I was a child, we lived on a farm in, of all places, Nashville, Ontario, and no I'm not a country singer.  We had goats and chickens and cows and horses.  There was Stag, and there was Red.  Red was a wild kind of horse - I think she had some kind of racing history at Woodbine Race Track - I'm not sure.  My dad had a theory that farming built character in kids, and I suppose in hindsight, I have to agree with him.  One of my father's particularly cruel character building exercises was placing us on Red's back for a ride.  Red didn't like kids on her back, and it wasn't long before we were summarily discharged onto the ground.  I seem to remember falling through a hole in the barn floor - (I think it was meant for dropping hay from the hayloft into the cow pens), and landing on Red's back - a short, violent ride ensued.  Fast forward to adulthood, and for some reason, I had a fear of horses.  A local riding stable offered lessons so I decided to wander in and see what it was all about.  A very pleasant young lady greeted me and before I knew it, she had me dealing with my fear of horses by spending time grooming them, and eventually learning how to tack up a horse and ride.  For months, maybe even years, I would go to the stable and spend an hour with Heather and a horse, most notably one named Knight riding around and around the ring learning new terms like trot, post, and canter.  My instructor was also a great listener, so much of the time was spent talking about other life issues.  All in all it was a very therapeutic experience.  However, part of what I had hoped to achieve out of my investment in equestrian instruction was the confidence or at least the skill to take the horse out of the barn and safely ride up over the hills and off into the sunset.  We often talked about a "hack", but never quite got around to it.  I took a bit of a hiatus in my lessons when my instructor fell in love with one of her students, got married and had a child, and the stable was sold.  A few years later, another stable opened up even closer to home, and a new team of equestrian enthusiasts came into our lives.  Back I went to the barn, refreshing my rusty skills only to ride around and around in circles again.  And then last week, out of the blue, my instructor sent me a text asking me if I felt like going for a hack on Friday morning.  I had some other things planned, but I thought this might be my big chance to get out of the barn.  I sent a few more test messages to other equestrian interested lads and we all gathered at our barns with Karey (our friend and instructor), where I've now assembled a motley group of horses, most of whom haven't been ridden for quite some time - so I wasn't sure just how things would turn out.  Ryan saddled up Chance, a 23 year old gelding, Dave rode Noche, Jake was on Franklin, Karey took my crazy horse Sophie, and I rode an unnamed, but very gentle gelded horse who might just as well have been called Perfect.  Amazingly, we had a great ride down through the old deer runways, up over the hills taking in the stunning views on this unusually warm November day.  Aside from a few Sophie episodes, everyone was well behaved and the humans and the horses seemed to really enjoy themselves.

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