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The Horse Crazy Life We Lead
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The Horse Crazy Life We Lead

In my lifetime of horsemanship, I have always been tagged as horse crazy--or even crazy with horses. As a small girl of 5 or 6, I fearlessly and tirelessly rode a pony of dubious ancestry and character. Our first year together, I rode him as often as my parents would throw a bridle on him--even bareback with his spine painful on my derrière. My parents would take me on trail rides with their long-strides horses causing my short legged pony to mercilessly jar my teeth as he roughly trotted to keep up. Regardless of Spanky's ill manners of standing straight on his hindlegs in refusal to move forward or his biting my socks, I loved the naughty pony with all my heart. Hours passed as I ran a comb or brush through his thick mane. Even with his bad habits, I cried when he was sold in order to buy me a larger pony.

This larger pony initially scared me because she was almost horse-sized opposed to Spanky's diminutive size. Her feet seemed enormous compared to his or to my tiny feet. Yet, Pepper, at 13 HH and 6 years old, was the best pony a child could have. Not only did she not have the naughty attitude of my previous beloved pony, she also knew enough about her riders to be a babysitter or a spunky entertaining ride depending. After my initial fears of her size were overcome, I loved Pepper with my whole heart and quickly progressed from apprehension to daring. By the time I was 9 and able to begin my foray into showing through 4-H, I was comfortable riding her at what felt like breakneck speed around barrels or through the recently harvested fields. Pepper, in her wisdom, held herself to a leisurely lope no matter how wildly I pressed her until she knew I could handle her spunk and speed.

Once my skills we equal to her speed, I rode her bareback over jumps, down trails, into unknown depths of ponds, and down abandoned rail road tracks. My craziness with her led to me also attempting to learn how to vault, jump up over her rear to mount, and even riding while standing on her back. There were times I'm sure she thought I was nuts as I used bailing twine for a neck-rope instead of using my bridle or when I first attempted to harness her to our new cart. If a pony can be given the title of Saint or angel--Pepper was truly deserving of such a title.

Once I outgrew Pepper and we had to sell her due to space constraints, I began riding my mother's temperamental 15-3HH mare. The lessons I learned on Pepper were valuable, but didn't keep me out of trouble on Zanadu. As an unparalleled trail horse, she was unflappable, but try to hold her from a brisk canter and you risked a bucking fit worthy of a saddle bronc. Through the grace of God, I never fell from her back, but quickly tired of her unrated desire to canter or gallop at her will. So I set out to cure her by running her faster and further than she wanted. I asked for a well-controlled canter and got some bucks instead. So I pushed her to a gallop and when she tried to slow, I urged her faster. Every time I asked her to slow and got a buck, I'd press her faster down the path. Eventually, she tired enough to want to stop. I pushed her just a bit further and when I asked her to slow to a trot, she gladly did. From then on she never bucked when rated at a canter or gallop.

However, that wasn't good enough for me. I pressed her into becoming a jumping horse. She absolutely loved it. The mare that had be taught to never jump, was suddenly flying over my make-shift obstacles. Through countless library books about jumping and English riding, I taught us both proper jumping skills and even dressage to help limber her stiff body. With nary an instructor in sight, we jumped obstacles 3' tall and 3' wide. During this transition from Western trail horse to English dressage and jumping horse, I also began riding her in a simple snaffle instead of the curb she'd been accustomed to wearing. My mother was flabbergasted at my success in taming her temperamental mare into a willing partner in my high jinx.

Eventually, Zanadu became a mother at my insistence. Her foal was born during a full moon and immediately took a liking to people. As a teenage girl, I was constantly out there with the mare and her filly--halter training her at a week old and even putting my lightweight English saddle on her before she was 6 months old. I didn't stop with conventional training either, by the time the filly was ready to be ridden she had been tangled in ropes, walked under, chased 4-wheelers and dogs, and any other crazy thing I could think to do with her. Being built like a tank as opposed to her mother's long and lean build, the filly was not fond of my English style of riding.

Moonshine hated being ridden period--even going so far as laying down randomly while being ridden. However, she did like one thing--pulling a cart or even logs. Soon we were zipping up and down the road in a 2-wheeled cart and a ridiculously light weight harness. In open fields we would do horse donuts--slinging the passengers in the cart at breakneck speed. Roads and well-established trails weren't enough for our adventures. We would strike out through the woods, sometimes getting trapped between trees or having no choice but to back out of a tight spot. Our adventures were constant entertainment for my horse-knowledgeable parents.

Now, I have a daughter of my own that is as horse crazy as I was. When we found out she is allergic to horses, we quickly found a Curly Horse that doesn't cause a reaction. Although only green-broke, the price was right and an instant bond formed between my daughter and Starlie. Cute as a button, both my daughter and Starlie love adventure. My husband's fear of horses and anxiety about horse-related accidents has made this crazy horse lady chomp at the bit for horse-related adventures. As I work to put more miles on Starlie to train her for my daughter, I've come up with new and exciting things to do with her. In-hand, Starlie has already learned to side pass, pivot on her haunches or forehand, go up and down bridges, walk through any kind of water puddle, step into tractor tires, and even stand in a tilt-bed trailer. Our most recent adventure had Starlie in the house with her friend the sheep watching a natural horsemanship TV show.

Photo is my own horse in my own house. ©2016 Erika M Vandiver

So, what kind of crazy adventures have you had with your horse(s)?

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Leave a Comment

  1. Of Horse Support
    Of Horse Support
    You have been on quite a few adventures! I wish I had my own to contribute. Thanks for sharing your awesome stories. We would love to hear more sometime!
    Log in to reply.
    1. thunderpants
      You should hire this lady who wrote the above article. She loves to write about horses !
      Log in to reply.

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