One of my childhood dreams has been fulfilled! As a kid, I was completely obsessed with horses. I loved their beauty, elegance, strength and power, characterized by those rippling muscles under smooth hair. (One of my favorite books growing up was Black Beauty, because I was completely in awe of the way a horse could persevere through so much hardship, just like a human.)
Last year, my dad was going to take me riding, but the day before, I stepped on a bee on the beach and it stung the sole of my foot, thus preventing me going, and resulting in much heartbreak. This time, I was determined not to go near a beach before this day trip (although I just remembered… I played beach volleyball the night before… though it wasn’t on a beach, just on sand pit courts… glad there weren’t any bees around!), and so, on the morning of, I was injury-free and ready to go!
We went to Boundary Ranch in Kananaskis, about an hour’s drive from Calgary. We arrived a little early so I went to visit the horses. I pet them all and there was one particular horse that really enjoyed my nose rubs, a beautiful black gelding named Morgan, and I thought to myself, “I hope I get to ride on this one!” When the time came to be matched up to our horses, I was actually paired with Morgan!
As I was led over to him, I started to get a bit nervous as I realized just how tall horses are. I could barely see over the saddle! To put my foot in the stirrup required at least a metre reach. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get on and would end up flopping around trying to get up into the saddle, but thankfully I’ve read and watched enough things about horses that mounting was pretty easy and I could get up nice n’ smoothly :) The girl then adjusted my stirrups to my leg length and taught me how to use the reins. I was struck by how long the reins are… I’d say about 2 metres of nice, thick leather, and they aren’t joined together like I thought, so if you drop one, it’s game over.
When I was up in the saddle, Morgan suddenly shifted his weight and my first thought was, “WOAH I am actually sitting on a living, breathing animal O_O” My abs instantly contracted to keep balance and I suddenly knew that this one-hour ride was gonna be a solid ab workout. As we started down the trail, my suspicions were confirmed. You have to have such perfect posture to ride a horse, because if you slouch, you’ll likely fall off!
Riding a horse is so different from driving a car or riding a bike – I soon realized that I couldn’t pull on the reins every few seconds to keep him going straight, but had to trust that he would follow the horse ahead of him in a generally straight line, even though he had the tendency to walk slightly out to the side (I wouldn’t blame him – the horse in front kept farting and pooping the whole time xD).
I also learned that Morgan is a snacker. He kept stopping to munch on the long grass and wildflowers that grew along the trail, and at first I let him ’cause hey, I like eating while on the go too. But halfway through, one of the guides told me not to let him do that since it holds up the line, so I had to keep him on shorter reins thereafter, and give him a good kick in the belly to keep him moving. It was funny though, because I could tell he knew he was supposed to keep moving, but he’d still duck his head down quickly to grab some grass (which nearly made me tip over the first time when I wasn’t expecting it), and then come up quickly and trot to catch up.
BTW, trotting is mad fun, once I finally figured out that you’re supposed to stand in the stirrups when a horse goes any faster than a walk, ’cause otherwise your pelvic bone is in for some bruising with all the bouncing it takes. I’m glad Morgan kept trotting though, ’cause it made the trail ride way more fun (most of the horses only walked). Sad we didn’t get to gallop, though I suppose the trail ride is for people who have never ridden before.
The only bad thing about riding a horse is that you often get whacked in the face by tree branches, since the horse only avoids them for itself. You’re on your own to avoid the branches it passes under. I often had to press myself against Morgan’s neck to duck some larger pine boughs. It’s also slightly alarming when they go downhill – you have to lean back a bit in the saddle or else you will tumble right off the front.
All in all, the hour passed by far too quickly for me. I am now completely in love with horses, and if I could, I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life on a ranch, riding horses and taking care of them. They are such beautiful creatures.
If you actually read through all this, kudos to you. I will never forget this experience, and am determined that it will not be my last. Who wants to come with on another trail ride?? :D