How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden?
Four years old. That was hold old Drifter was when I started riding him. He had been started then turned out to pasture for a year-ish before I took over the ride.
How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden?
Gosh, I think the horse I started riding on as a kid was probably pushing 30. His name was Jack. I also fondly remember Lady and Nikki, two elderly school horses that played a part in my earliest riding education. God bless the school horses.
Were you scared of horses when you first started riding?
No, I loved ever minute of it. I remember being mad when other people got to start learning to canter before I did. I wanted to go fast!
Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider?
Confident. Like anyone, I have my nervous moments but generally I’m pretty confident and calm. Drifter was very attuned to my emotion/mood, so I learned a lot of mental and emotional control in the last two years. That has given me a lot of confidence as well.
Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses?
It’s not really a pet peeve, but it slightly irritates me when people act overly scared. Like, I understand being nervous and I’m not trying to be a jerk about it. I get that they’re large animals. But I’m not going to put someone in a situation that’ll go badly. Like, if I tell you it’s okay to pet the horse, I’m not secretly trying to maneuver you into closer range so you can get bitten or stepped on. Just take a breath. If you’re that scared, don’t ask or agree to come to the barn with me. (Small children are the exception to this annoyance.)
A time you’ve been scared for your life?
Stick with me, this is a long-ish story. I was 15 or 16 and the barn I was at was doing a charity event where a group of 50 horse/rider combinations reenacted the Pony Express. Each horse would do four separate one mile stints; they’d gallop a mile with the mail bag, hand it off and then get on a trailer to leapfrog up 50 miles to wait for their next mile run. It was really fun, mostly.
I was riding my horse, Cash, who was a nutjob and I don’t know what made me think that this kind of event would be a good one for him to do. Our first mile went okay, it was wide grassy stretch along a bike path. No problem except when bikers came by and Cash would freak out for a bit.
Our second mile was along the gravel shoulder of a busy two-lane country highway. The event organizers were in a big RV that would drive slowly along behind the current horse and rider, staying back a little ways to keep regular traffic from zipping past. Well, apparently someone in that line of cars was unhappy with going so slowly along the road, because suddenly Cash shied violently and leapt sideways onto the paved part of the road, in front of the RV and less than 6 feet from the lane of oncoming traffic. The road was slick from an earlier rainstorm and he was scrambling to stay upright as his shoes slipped on wet pavement. I looked over and there was a car on the shoulder where we had been running moments before. We were boxed in by vehicles – oncoming traffic to the left, the RV behind, and a sedan on the shoulder to the right. I thought Cash was going to fall and send us both flying under a vehicle, or spook further into oncoming traffic The driver on the shoulder rolled down his window, screamed, “Get the hell out of the way!” and flipped me off as he hit the gas and roared away. My memory is a sort of strange tunnel-vision after that. I managed to get Cash back on the shoulder. He didn’t want to stay there – I’m sure he was expecting another car to come up behind us at any moment.
We finished the mile – it wasn’t much further to run – and handed off the bag. There was a crew of people waiting with the trailer. Someone took Cash’s reins as I dismounted and someone else caught me when my feet hit the ground – my knees completely buckled. It was horrible.
Of course, I was a teenager so I had no sense whatsoever and insisted on trying to finish my final two miles. During the third one, Cash kept shying into the road again but it was a quiet country road with little traffic. (It was still kind of scary.) I think I sat out the final mile and had a reserve rider do it for me instead. So, yeah. That was definitely the most scared for my life I have ever been and I’d prefer to keep it that way.
Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened?
Yep. A couple of times. That’s not embarrassing at all to admit. Once was a schooling show maybe four years ago and I went into the 2′ hunter hack for my over fences ride. I was the first rider in the very first class of the day. We picked up a canter, came around to the fence, spooked a bit at the judge’s stand and…stopped at the fence. I landed on the back in the dirt. That’s right: First rider, first class, first fence. Fail.
Another time was actually my last show with Husky, when he was really acting out from pain in his shoulder (which we figured out after I had a horrible show).
Oh yeah, and I came off of Twinkle when she had a dirty stop at the second fence in a line. It was supposed to be our final jump of the whole show and she just…didn’t jump. I did, though. I had a bruise on my leg for a month from that one.
Huh. It kind of seems like I fall off at shows kind of a lot. I swear I do not. I didn’t this past summer with Drifter. So there.
What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride?
Good question. I guess an Irish sporthorse or something similarly fancy. I’ve mostly ridden Quarter Horses or Appendixes (Appendices?).
Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden?
Poe. For sure. His full name was Poe the Goblin and he had a little goblin inside for sure. It was so funny; he was really big and loose in his shoulder so he could do these wicked extensions, but he was super responsive off the seat. He was so talented and fun…until he wasn’t. He had The Kill Switch and when it flipped, he would try and get you off like no other horse I’ve seen. He had many tricks and wasn’t afraid to use them all. And you’d rarely see it coming.
The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had?
Ever? That’s tough. I had a string of pretty frustrating rides over the summer. But I tend not to get too frustrated in general. I figure every ride is an opportunity to be better and to make the situation fun or relaxing for the horse. In that mindset, it’s tough to get frustrated.