Today’s blog post title, 9 Myths about Horseback Riding, is inspired by the myths that horse lovers come up against from non-horsey people.
How do I describe the bliss when I’m riding a horse? I’m at one with a beautiful, gentle mythical creature. It’s magical. It’s like flying. Horseback riding brings me a sense of freedom and peacefulness.
I also get a great view what’s going on around me. A total bonus for a woman who stands five foot nothing. The view from the back of a horse is so much different than the view on the ground.
Riding a horse brings a whole new perspective!
Horseback riding is life. Everything else is just details.
Let’s check out these 9 myths about horseback riding.
1. Riding is easy
I think the only people who say “riding is easy” are the people who’ve never ridden a horse!
First of all, a person needs to have the confidence to be around a one-thousand-pound beast with its own distinct personality. Said horse could have a different opinion than the rider on how things will be going down.
There’s a lot going on before riding the horse – grooming, saddling, and bridling. And that’s only once we’re sure the horse has been fed and watered and is not showing any signs of sickness or lameness.
Once we’re on the horse’s back, we need to have good balance, know how to use our legs and hands to guide the horse, and the ability to stay on the horse when it moves into a faster gait.
We need to be able to control a horse that has been spooked by an animal or loud noise. The horse has a flight instinct. They’ll rear up, do a 180, and run.
I can’t even begin to count the number of horse-eating ducks we’ve encountered over the years!
There are many times the rider has to immediately react in order to stay on the horse’s back and get it under control.
2. The horse does all the work
A horse is transportation. So if you look at the horse as getting me from Point A to Point B, then yes, the moving horse is doing that work.
The reality is, the rider works together with the horse, steering and guiding.
There’s no better feeling than being at one with a horse.
Think of it as driving your car from Point A to Point B. Your car’s moving parts are getting you there, but the car isn’t doing all the work. The driver is working at keeping the car on the road, turning the wheel, applying the brake, giving it gas, and steering it where it needs to go.
Just as the car’s driver has to look where they’re going and use their hands and legs to operate the vehicle, a horse’s rider does the same things – using their hands, legs, and mind to get the horse where they need to go.
3. You’re just sitting there
Flashback to my mother saying “you’re just sitting there”. Usually followed by “the horse is doing all the work”. Which we just discussed above is not accurate.
If I’m on my couch watching TV, it’s accurate to say “you’re just sitting there”. Sitting on the couch doesn’t take much effort.
Sitting on a horse requires balance and coordination. A rider can’t just flop around in the saddle and hope the horse knows where it’s going without any direction. A horseback rider must be a whole lot more alert to their surroundings than a person just sitting there on a couch.
One of the best things about “just sitting there” on a horse’s back – all my stress is melting away. That’s the kind of peace that takes over a rider’s body.
4. Horseback riding is for rich people
I’m the best example of the myth that horseback riding is only for the rich. I’ve never been rich and I’ve owned horses most of my life.
I’m horse poor!
There are a lot of rich people who buy horses worth tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. These horses are for racing, jumping, showing, and breeding at high stakes levels.
I’m not that person.
I love being around horses. I’m all about riding with a good old Western saddle and hitting the trails.
When I was in high school there was a song regularly played on the radio by a local group named Sweeney Todd. The song was If Wishes were Horses and the lead singer was a hometown fifteen-year-old boy named Bryan Adams. Through the magic of editing his voice hits some high notes that are out of reach for me. This song used to be on YouTube, but, sadly, it’s gone now. When I was driving and If Wishes were Horses came on the radio, I’d crank that tune! It was about poor people riding horses alongside the rich. The lyrics went something like:
Come with me you can wish upon a star,
You can do all the things that you want to.
And you won’t have to wonder who you are,
You can be anybody you want to.
The next verse I don’t remember so well
In a land full of promises and dreams,
All your best ?? are behind you,
You can have the world to tie upon a string,
Just close your eyes and imagine…
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,
All the kings and the sires would ride alongside.
Worries and troubles, they’d follow behind
If wishes were horses, beggers would ride.
Ah man! Bryan could really hit those high notes!
Sweeney Todd used to play at high school dances and grads back in the seventies.
5. The horse doesn’t like being ridden
Sure, there are horses who don’t like being ridden. Could be due to bad owners or a bad experience under saddle, in pain, or have a nervous disposition.
Most horses I’ve owned have loved getting out for a ride. They push their noses into the bridle and willingly open their mouths for the bit. They stand quietly when being saddled and don’t give me much grief when I’m on their back.
Horses are like people. They like a chance to stretch their legs, discover new places, and get out of the barn or field and do something different for awhile.
As much as we love spending time with our horses, they also love spending time with their people. Horses are social, loving animals. They thrive on attention, praise, and love.
6 Horseback riding isn’t real exercise
Horseback riding is a full body work out. Riders use just about every part of their body while grooming, saddling, riding, and dismounting.
Horseback riding is a great way to improve the muscles in your legs and arms.
There’s even yoga on horseback. Yeah, I bought the book! It’s probably in a box somewhere in my storage room…
A horseback rider can burn around 200 calories every 45 minutes to an hour. Depends what they’re doing – playing polo, jumping fences, or taking a quiet scenic ride.
Take a look at this study on the health benefits of horseback riding. https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2015/06/15/study-examines-health-benefits-of-horseback-riding/
7. Horseback riding is dangerous
Years ago I leased a farm that was near an airport, small aircraft and helicopters. There was a nice trail system that ran alongside the airport. On weekend rides, we’d look up and see all these parachutes.
People jumping out of perfectly good planes!
My friends and I would comment on the skydivers. “That’s so dangerous. I’d never do it.”
Then we wondered, while making their slow descent back to earth, if any of those people hanging from a parachute were watching us ride our horses. What were they thinking while looking at us horseback riders? “Riding a horse is so dangerous. I’d never do it.”
I’m sure most of us have heard about someone who’s had a bad accident while riding a horse.
Superman actor, Christopher Reeve, became paralyzed after a riding accident. His horse came to an abrupt stop at a jump and he fell. https://www.christopherreeve.org/blog/daily-dose/a-single-centimeter-a-ruined-life-the-accident-that-caused-christopher-reeve-superman-to-go-from-a-star-to-legend
In just about every activity we do, there’s a risk. A car can a crash. A skier might go over a cliff. A boat might sink.
We want to make sure our equipment is in good shape and that our horse and ourselves are in good shape. We don’t want to ride a horse that is better suited for a more experienced rider. We also don’t want to guide a horse to jump over a five foot fence if we’re only used to jumping over small logs down in the trail.
If you ride a horse that’s suitable for your level of experience, you’ll do just fine.
8. Too old to ride
Define “too old” to ride a horse.
As far as I know, Robert Redford is still riding horses at age 84.
Check out this cowgirl who died at age 101. Unfortunately, sped along after falling off her horse twelve days earlier and breaking her neck.
I expect to ride horses as long as I’m physically capable of doing so.
The older you get, the more worried you are about falling. As I get older, I’ll probably be content riding slow, lazy horses that plod along.
9. Just a phase
Many girls go through a horse crazy stage, that usually happens between the ages of 10 to 20.
Their parents write it off that they’re just going through a phase.
The horse crazy phase wears off as soon as the girls hit the boy crazy phase.
Some girls like me never transitioned to the boy crazy stage! I’ve been crazy about horses all my life.
Bonus myth: horses are big dogs
It’s a bonus myth because it’s not about horseback riding!
I’d say some of us horsewomen consider our horses to be our big babies. In fact most horse people also own dogs. We’re animal lovers!
I definitely think my dogs look at the horses as big dogs! And the real dogs get pissed off because the big dogs are getting attention from me. I’m brushing my horse and the next thing I know Shadow is nudging me with her nose wanting to be groomed too.
Shadow isn’t big on eating her food, and if she still has food in her bowl when I’m ready to go to the farm, I bring it with us. Cajun will often walk over and snuffle her food. Horses are vegetarians and he won’t eat it. But Shadow doesn’t know that. All she sees is the big dog nosing her food. Competition! She moves in fast and starts eating it before the big dog can steal her meal.
Who’s the big doggy
Here I am
And just because I got all excited thinking about Bryan Adams – who’s seen the animated film Spirit?
Love this song from the movie that Bryan Adams sings.
Bryan Adams played opening day at the 2010 PNE for the 100 year anniversary. The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) is like Vancouver’s equivalent of a state fair.
Hometown boy performing for the hometown crowd. It was amazing! I’d been trying to get tickets for a Bryan Adams concert for years and they always sold out in seconds. Score! I finally got tickets!
Forty bucks! And that included admission to the PNE which was $20. Amazing deal!
Before the second song, Bryan told the crowd he had a great view from the stage. Outdoor stage by the way for this afternoon concert. He said he could see the north shore mountains, Burrard Inlet, and all of us. Then he added, “and here I am”, and launched into that song.