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A Gallop Through The English Countryside
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A Gallop Through The English Countryside

I have never owned a horse but I love them, and I used to be a keen rider. Several of my friends at school owed their own ponies, so I got interested in riding, and started going for lessons at a local riding school when I was about 13 or 14 years of age. I used to go every weekend and it was one of the hobbies that I enjoyed the most. Not just because I was an animal lover (the feeling of closeness and communion with the horse is a wonderful one, I am sure you will all agree) but also the fresh air and exercise, the lovely scenery of the hacks in the country, and the scary but exhilarating feel of galloping and jumping.

It is an interest I have pursued into adult life, whenever finances permit, which is not that often, because hiring a horse even for an hour's ride has become so expensive now. I have been pony-trekking a few times in England, mostly when I have been on holiday, and  (almost) always found it very relaxing and pleasurable. I always think it is a wonderful way to see our lovely countryside – you get to see more than just being on foot because you are up higher!

However I have twice fallen off a horse in my life: once as a teenager and once as an adult. When I used to go to the riding school the horse suddenly broke into a canter without warning, and I slipped off. Obviously it is a shock when you fall off, but I wasn’t hurt. The second time was the most recent a few years ago. I was on a holiday break in Devon, in the West Country, and on a long hack in the fields and woods with some others. The horse I was riding was very temperamental and contrary, and I couldn’t get on with her at all. We were having a gallop, which was exciting, when suddenly the mare swerved without warning, completely unseated me, and I found myself flying through the air, before I could regain my balance!  It was incredibly painful and winded me, but fortunately I fell on long, wet grass, so I was not badly injured, only bruised. They told me the best thing I could do was to get straight back on the horse straightaway, so I did. I didn’t enjoy the rest of the ride after that though, I was shaking with nerves!

However it has not put me off riding – it is just an inevitable part of it, something that happens sometimes! I can see why they say get back on at once, otherwise you will probably develop a phobia about riding and horses. It is better to nip that in the bud, do it before your mind really has a chance to process it! This also applies to a lot of other situations too, metaphorically: when you fall down, it is important to get straight back up again and keep going.

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  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    The English countryside sounds so beautiful & you make it sound very inviting too! Voted. Please check out Toning & Improving Muscles. Please vote if you liked it. Thank you
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  2. Izzy Wilder
    Izzy Wilder
    Voted. Very interesting read! Really enjoyed reading this post!
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  3. Izzy Wilder
    Izzy Wilder
    Voted. Very interesting read! Really enjoyed reading this post!
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  4. jst4horses
    I encourage the horse rent rider to be grateful there are people who do the taking care of, feeding, vetting, etc for a horse so others can go on a jaunt. If you spent one month with a horse, daily taking care of it, and paying all the costs, you would find any rental stable to be very reasonable. We have few stables here that allow anyone to go out on trail without a guide, because people do not realize that movies are not true and horses cannot run all over the place with your weight on them. Quarter horses are called quarter horses because they can run a mile, and then require specific cool down procedures or they are in horrible pain and often die. Race horses are limited to a bit over a mile. It takes four hours to properly cool down a racehorse that is in top condition (no rental horses are) and runs the longest race plus the time to slow it down and trot it back in to the pick up area for the horse handlers to begin the cool down process. I make every single one of my students put a ten pound bag of potatoes in a knapsack and run around the arena, jumping, doing the barrels, and swerving through the whips. I want them to know just how much horses really do "enjoy" us. I think horses do enjoy people, and enjoy going out in the country, but people need to learn how to make the experience enjoyable for the horse. Also, an independent seat is when the horse swerves and you go with it. People really need to take more lessons and be better riders and they will have less falls. I also teach all of my students HOW to fall, which my first riding instructors taught me.
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  5. jst4horses
    I encourage the horse rent rider to be grateful there are people who do the taking care of, feeding, vetting, etc for a horse so others can go on a jaunt. If you spent one month with a horse, daily taking care of it, and paying all the costs, you would find any rental stable to be very reasonable. We have few stables here that allow anyone to go out on trail without a guide, because people do not realize that movies are not true and horses cannot run all over the place with your weight on them. Quarter horses are called quarter horses because they can run a mile, and then require specific cool down procedures or they are in horrible pain and often die. Race horses are limited to a bit over a mile. It takes four hours to properly cool down a racehorse that is in top condition (no rental horses are) and runs the longest race plus the time to slow it down and trot it back in to the pick up area for the horse handlers to begin the cool down process. I make every single one of my students put a ten pound bag of potatoes in a knapsack and run around the arena, jumping, doing the barrels, and swerving through the whips. I want them to know just how much horses really do "enjoy" us. I think horses do enjoy people, and enjoy going out in the country, but people need to learn how to make the experience enjoyable for the horse. Also, an independent seat is when the horse swerves and you go with it. People really need to take more lessons and be better riders and they will have less falls. I also teach all of my students HOW to fall, which my first riding instructors taught me.
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    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      I wasn't suggesting the riding stables are ripping people off, jst4horses,: I know keeping and caring for horses is very expensive, and, as you say, it is great that there are people who look after them and help to cover their costs by hiring them out. I was just saying the price has gone up so much, like everything, and it has become mostly too expensive for me on my income to go riding very often, when I need the money for other things. I agree with you about working with the horse as well; I am sure a lot of them don't enjoy having us on their backs! But that particular mare I was on was known for being tricky anyway, and I had lost the knack of riding, that was part of the problem. I wasn't being negative and critical about riding schools and horses, I was just expressing myself. I am very pro-horse welfare, I can assure you! I hate the way some humans treat them, and I campaign about it.
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      1. jst4horses
        I apologize, I did not mean you thought they were. I often think how much easier my life would be if I just went on a good dinner ride EVERY SINGLE day for the cost of maintaining an equine therapy program that is FREE to veterans and high risk youth and families. If you get a chance take a Parelli clinic and learn more about independent seat. Pat learned riding horses without any tack in a field. Just sitting on them, sticking with them. It is scary, but if you can find a trainer who is willing, you can learn to ride in a similar way. I have my students on a line, and often a pad because they whine about the hair and withers poking at them. BUT, I move the horse this way and that without warning, lounge them as the riders get better, and after the third lesson, if I think they are ready, I teach them to take small jumps with no tack to develop an independent seat. My earliest trainer taught me to think of yourself like one of those punchy dolls, with all the weight in your rear end. When you get scared, you squeeze and let the weight go to your shoulders, and your own weight helps to propel you off the horse. He also taught me to think of a bar through both knees and never touch the horse below the knee. Most people squeeze their legs and that feels like a lion front legs and their instinct tells them run faster. Pat Parelli says to learn to ride, and learn to stop riding. If a horse runs off, either stop riding and get him to stop riding, or just ride until he tires out and you both can stop riding. My younger son calls it the Tai Chi of horsemanship, just stop riding, the horse will stop feeling more afraid, and stop riding with you. I call them big hamsters. They do not realize the predator on their back is afraid of them, just that the predator is squeezing and afraid, and they do their best to get you both away. Horses in the wild run only until safety is achieved. When the alpha mare says it is safe, the herd stops running. When you ride, you need to learn to be that alpha mare and say "someone else got eaten, we can stop running". There is a great video on Animal Planet where zebras run from the lions, one gets pulled down, the rest stop, take a look and calmly graze within feet of their friend being eaten. You need to help a stressy horse to be calm and know nothing is going to eat her. I used to ride my racing stallion on the mountain alone at night, he would call to the other horses and I knew he was sure I had him out there to get eaten. There actually are mountain lions on that mountain. He would do what I asked him, but he never did get over calling back to the other horses to make sure that I did not get him lost and eaten. He would neigh, they would answer, he would look in that direction, I would say nope, we are going on, he would say darn, and on we would go.
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  6. sweedly
    sweedly
    When I was in high school I had found an ad for a riding school in England. I had my heart set on going to learn dressage and other forms of riding, however, my dream never happened. I enjoyed your blog. Having fallen off horses I know it takes courage and nerve to get back on again. Voted.
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    1. jst4horses
      There was a recent horse article somewhere about a woman who started riding at 65. I have friends who are still riding in their eighties. Take a chance, but find a good stable, maybe even consider one that is really for equine therapy and has really tried and gentle horses for you to start on. They might be surprised at your request, but might let you learn. Some of the greatest (last Olympics-the rider from Japan for instance) riders are doing dressage at an older age. A really well trained dressage horse, no longer used for competition, and a trainer willing to work with you and we might see you meet your dream. The secret to falling off is to know how. That means independent seat, and when you know the cause is lost, to grab the mane, or saddle, and slide down the leg rather than go for a flying lesson, it is much easier on the back and does not knock the wind out of you, at high speeds you still may fall, but push away from the horse and LET GO. My last fall was when a cinch broke as I was tightening it. I just tumbled backwards, the horse looked around, he was a very abused horse who was very bucky..........he looked at me on the ground and seemed to say "this time it was YOUR fault". One time while training that horse, another trainer came over and said "I have to hand it to you, you keep getting back up there, how many times today? Sixty?" Then he said, it is not like he really bucks you off, it is more like you slither down his leg. I also do some intense ground work and then, back up. Finally the horse just gets the picture. For many years he was a reliable therapy horse, before being stolen and injured badly enough I had to have him put down.
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  7. naturegirl
    Just getting around to voting. Here you go!
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