Sunday, November 15, 2009


The three of us riding Dixie bareback. Riding bareback on Willow. Yep, the one on the left is Nic riding with a kitten, but honestly, when I pulled it out of the book, I thought it was me....could have been, we all took our kitties for rides....

A couple of weekends ago, I went to Benalto to give a "Fun with Jeanne Horsemanship Clinic" to the level 1-3 Shadow Riders of the Benalto Shadow Riders 4-H club. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my love of horses with kids.

We grew up riding horses, mostly bareback, without saddles, without bridles, without dirt rings, but always with big smiles on our faces. We couldn't saddle by ourselves so mom, in an effort to save on laundry, sewed us "bareback pads." This way we could keep the seats of our jeans clean while playing with our pony. Willow was a star, she and mom, taught us how much fun horses can be. We used to think she was an "Indian" pony so we'd play our version of "Indian Princesses" with her. Dad had built us our very own TeePee and we'd gallop across the yard from the TeePee to the house and back hanging on to nothing but mane, and the reins, when we'd remember. Once in a while we'd manage to give each other a "leg up" onto one of the bigger horses and we'd chase each other around. We invented this game, that seems silly now, but was so fun back then. We'd stick a riding crop into our boots (back then we wore our jeans, quite fashionably tucked into our boots too,) then we'd chase each other around, trying to steal the crop out of someone else's boot. We used to ride underneath our old swing set, convincing our horse to stop under the swing set so we could grab the top bar, stand up on our horse, flip over the bar and land back, square in the middle of our horse's bareback pad. We'd spend hours and hours trying to vault onto our horses. We'd back up, get a running start and fly at the side of our pony. Sometimes we'd manage to get our elbows over her back and using all of our strength and a lot of childish flexibility we'd manage to pull ourselves up, but most of the time, we'd just wiggle and squirm and knee our incredibly patient pony in the guts. We attempted, for several years, to mount Willow, "Three Amigo" style, by jumping over her ass. We'd take a running start for that trick too. Never, not once in all my years of trying did I ever make it up over Willow's butt without the help of a bucket. And I tried for years!!! We had boyfriends who'd could jump clear over Shadow (my favorite black horse,) as long as we fed him enough oats that he'd keep his head down. He he!!
Recently, (by recently, I mean a couple of years ago,) I took Dirt Face to a mountain camp where mom and I played games with other riders that involved stealing eachother's bridles off horses, undoing each other's cinches and throwing each other's gloves on the ground making them retrieve them without getting off their horses. Sooo fun!!!
There have even been a few times when I've taken my horse into the ponds and rivers deep enough that they had to swim while we rode them!

These games, this fun, silly style, is what I love to bring to the kids. I love to show them how, if they are patient and trust their horse and if their horse trusts them, they can play with each other. I show them how to get their horses to play a version of soccer with them, I show them how to play Red Light, Green Light on horse back, how to play horsey leap frog, how, with trust and practice, they can hang right off the saddle, lean over and pick a gumball off of a pylon. I show them how to take a risk and ride without stirrups and eventually, how much fun it is to ride bareback. I encourage them to take off their saddles and to try to jump on. I stand back and watch as they giggle and laugh as they attempt various mounting styles and realize with surprise, how much fun they are having with their horses, on a simple, no pressure level!! These are not necessarily skills that will make them do better in the show ring, but they are skills that will give them a better relationship with their horses. It gives me so much pleasure to watch kids play with their horses, I love it!!!

Aim, Nic and I, eventually saddled our horses and we rode them in show rings where sometimes we'd win.....and sometimes we'd lose, either way, it was always fun and I know nomatter where my equine adventures take me, it always will be!


Country Girl said...

Gave me chills, Jeanne! I used to be soooo jealous of how you guys could do the bareback mount - I always had to use a trough or fence! But yes, in the day of the lawsuit I think a lot of horsey fun has been lost.

Nicole said...

thanks for making me smile :)