Sunday, January 25, 2009

Winter Riding.

Yesterday Casey had some people driving up from Pennsylvania to look at some horses. This was a tricky endeavor because it involved trailering horses from her place to the indoor arena up here for two days in row as well as some creative craftwork on my part, fashioning ear plugs for horses out of pom poms purchased at AC Moore. You see, the normal pom poms they sell there are too small for an averaged sized horse ear, so I stitched 2 together to make one ear plug. I made a total of 3 sets. I was quite pleased with myself.

The earplugs were for Lucy, a 5 year old Oldenburg/TB cross who is just gorgeous and easy to ride, but young and silly. Anyway. We forgot to put the earplugs in after all and she was fine. Raina, because she's perfect in every way, doesn't need earplugs.

The equestrian facilities were surprisingly dismal, considering it's affiliation with a major institution. The school horses appeared to be kept in these funny, old fashioned stalls that are really just made up of dividers, with no 4th wall. That is to say they are made up of the wall of the barn and two perpendicular walls that are about 3.5 feet high. There is no stall door, just a space. There are 2 horses to a "stall" and they are kept "separated" by a plank that is dangling on ropes from the ceiling. The reason this "works" is because in their stalls, they are tied to the barn wall. But that doesn't stop them from kicking out at each other. So you walk down an aisle with nothing between you and 30 sets of hindquarters but air and your own good sense to stay far away. I saw not a few pinned ears and carefully aimed swipes. I'm sure I'd be cranky and snappy too if I spent the day tied to a wall.

The real stalls (presumably the stalls for the boarders) looked so tiny that a biggish horse wouldn't be able to lie down comfortably.

The ring is nice and huge and the footing is great. On Friday we had it mostly to ourselves. I went for a good long gallop on Raina and then switched to Lucy because Casey wasn't feeling brave and there was a 17.2 hh 3 year old gelding who was leaping around at the end of a lunge line. I don't blame her - I may not have health insurance, but she has 3 kids all under the age of 10.

Riding on Saturday however brought back all the hell that was riding at (the old) Stanford during the winter (or really anytime of the year...). Something which, after 10 years of riding at private facilities, I had really not thought about.

Let's see, we had:

The tottery child learning to steer, on a tiny pony. A tiny pony that I could barely see from atop Lucy.

The weird horsie version of a crazy cat lady, insisting on running her poor (very pretty, I might add) Arab at a (our) jump while throwing herself at its ears. It stopped, three times, before she gave up and went back to trotting slowly around in a circle.

Rubber booted undergraduates doing practice rides, trying to remember what they learned in their lesson program when they were 12, white knuckling the reins, terrified because of the people that know what they're doing keep riding near them and thus they are continually stopping suddenly, for no reason, in the middle of the track.

The very serious dressage rider making sudden and violent circles in front of the jump you are pointed at (I know, I know. Dressage is just so much more legitimate than anything else you could possibly do on a horse).

Horses being ridden in a halter. Not something I am entirely opposed to, but given the circumstances, not something I would have chosen to do, considering the amount of time it takes to get the average horse to turn or stop while wearing a halter.

People getting off and letting their horses roll in the middle of the ring (really!). One girl got off and had her horse follow her around without a lead, practicing stopping and starting, while she desperately looked around for someone to notice. I noticed all right - I noticed the poor clip job her horse had and what a dangerous thing to do that was.

The place was rampant with Pony Club Don'ts, and I don't mean draw reins or spurs (I didn't think their were enough of those sorts of things, actually, considering the behaviour of some of the horses, who had obviously been cooped up on account of the winter - if you think there's a possibility that your horse might want to stand up - and I saw 2 horses do exactly that - wouldn't you want something - anything! to attempt to keep its front feet on the ground??). I'm talking about the kind of things that made my inner riding instructor want to start listing loudly to the person committing the error, all the ways in which the particular behaviour in question could/would result in injury or death to either person or horse.

I realise that these places are necessary. I understand that for some people this is the only way they can ride. I'm so very glad that it's not that way for me.

ANYWAY. Sarcasm aside, I had a great time and I can't wait to go again. We'll be riding there again soon because Casey's ring is still frozen solid and will be for another month or so. I was so happy to be riding that despite the fact that I noticed all of these things and laughed about them, none of the difficulty of the situation mattered. I'm sure I'll get used to it again. Besides, in a month or two, I'll be able to go back to my own, private little barn surrounded by miles of trails and mountains, and ride whenever and whoever I want with little to no interruptions. I can put up with the inconvenience for now. Besides, the at least the ring's heated.

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