Things Writers Should Know About Horses {APADO #7}

(this is APADO, the ambitious, reckless blog series where I attempt to post once a day for the entire month of october. and really, i’ve only been succeeding by writing at night. for some reason, i am way more motivated at night.)

(and we’re back to information/advice posts. i’m tellin’ ya, life’s a steeplechase.)

(people are probably going to skip this one due to all the text. i tried, y’all.)

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One of the things that I had to get used to when I started working around horses was that things weren’t exactly like I’d seen in the movies. Pretty much every cliche about horses was dangerous, stupid, or just unrealistic.

And once I’d discovered this fact, it seemed that everywhere I looked, I saw an innacuracy. Movies, books, bucket lists…it was almost too much to handle, for a while.

Since then, I’ve come to terms with the fact that not everyone has thirty million horse books or the time to read all of them. More recently, I thought it might be a good idea to go over some basic tips for writing more realistic interactions with horses.

So let’s dive into it!

What, exactly, is a horse?

This seems like a stupid question. It’s not.

A horse isn’t like a motorbike. Yes, you can steer it and change its speed, but a horse is a living, thinking creature. It has a mind of its own, and unless it’s undergone some incredible obedience training, it’s not going to blindly follow your reins and legs. Like people, horses are imperfect and have personalities. So they’re going to be stubborn, lazy, or fearful at times.

What’s a horse capable of?

Since horses aren’t machines, even the strongest, hardiest breeds get tired and grouchy. They can’t be expected to work endlessly. They need frequent breaks, plenty of food, and lots of care to keep in top condition.

Another thing that’s easy to forget about horses is their endurance. Galloping is hardly ever practical. Yes, racehorses can reach incredible speeds, but only because they’re carrying a minimal weight over a short distance. And galloping is dangerous over uneven terrain – a slippery rock or a log in the path could trip a horse and possibly break his leg, which will shut down his travels for months.

Even though it’s not as beautiful, the most efficent gait is the trot. A well-conditioned horse will be able to keep up a trot for much longer than a gallop – not to mention that it’s easier on the rider, too.

What’s a rider capable of?

It’s hard to see this from the ground, but riding is not just sitting on a horse and letting him do his thing. It’s an exhausting sport, especially for a beginner or for someone who hasn’t ridden in a while. The faster you ride, the more quickly you’ll tire out. Riders need just as many breaks as horses, perhaps even more when you count in what people are usually thinking about when they make their horseback escape.

A few other notes:

The reins of a bridle, which are attached to a metal bit in the horse’s mouth, are not a substitute for a lead rope. Tying a horse up by the reins could mean a broken bridle or severe injury in a horse’s mouth if he spooked and tried to pull away from the hitching post.

Jumping on horses is not a good idea. It hurts their backs, makes them cranky, and usually ends with a crowhop or a buck.

Horses don’t have terrific vision. Their depth perception works a lot differently than a human’s. A horse will probably smell something coming before he sees it.

Horses have a lot of blind spots. They can’t see directly above or below them, under their neck, or behind their tails. If someone’s standing in one of these blind spots, there’s a good chance he’s going to get kicked.

And gentle horsepeople are smart horsepeople. No matter how heartless or cold a person is, he’ll take care of his horse because a horse is an investment. Mistreating it will not only hurt the horse, but the person’s pocketbook.

Wrapping up:

Horses are a lot like people. They’re unpredictable, they get tired, and they need proper care. They can’t be expected to gallop everywhere or jump huge jumps, no matter how urgent the situation is. Abusing horses isn’t just harmful to the horse, but also to the owner, because the horse is an investment that should be taken care of.

And please, please, please never tie a horse by just the reins.

tl;dr: Horses aren’t vehicles.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

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My Horseback Riding Journey {APADO #5}

(APADO = a post a day; october. I’m trying to post once a day for a month and it’s kind of killing me, but I’m doing alright. *wipes brow*)

(I really, really, really need to get batteries for my camera so I can take some photos for blog posts instead of relying on my backlog.)

(and this post is kinda personal so if that’s not your thing then that’s okay ^w^)

APADO 5

I think it’s public knowledge that I love horseback riding. I’ve been doing it for three years now and I feel like it’s going to be a part of me for the rest of my life.

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these photos all look bad but I don’t have time to fuss over it right now

Though I had loved horses for all my life, I didn’t sit on a horse until I was 12, when I saved up all my money and bought a semester of riding lessons. They weren’t exactly as I’d imagined, but they weren’t too far off. I’d say the best thing I learned was how to groom a horse. I had no idea how much I’d use it later.

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There was a little show at the end of them – just to show off to our parents what we’d learned. I placed last in all the classes, but I had fun.

All my ribbons said “participant”. As in “good try!”

Of course, I didn’t really care that much about the ribbons. (Honestly, I was just glad I had won anything.) What I did care about, however, was how expensive the lessons were.

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hanging with my uncle’s crazy horses

I spent that summer still obsessed with horses (as usual), wondering what I should do. I could either get rich or get creative.

I chose to get creative.

That fall, I started helping out at a broodmare farm. I groomed horses, mucked out stalls, and did whatever I needed to do. And it was here, at Willow Tree Farm, that I found out that I love to ride bareback.

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I also drew this picture of one of their horses. on notebook paper.

There wasn’t, though, enough to do at Willow to justify my riding there – I didn’t have enough experience to do what really needed to be done. Even though I didn’t want to leave, I unofficially started looking for another place. But the chilly evenings spent cleaning tack or riding bareback on their old jumping mare will always be a special time in my life.

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i’m legit always wearing this tobymac shirt to the barn?

I found Skyline Farm at the beginning of last year. It’s a stable that specializes in riding lessons for all ages. Being the dork I am, I wrote a letter asking if I could trade barnwork for riding lessons, and eventually started assisting the trainers during the kids’ lessons. It’s actually a really fun job. And I get paid in – oh yes – riding lessons.

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from one of my gopro videos

I really have to thank my trainers at Skyline for getting me to the place I am in my riding skill today. When I came, I hadn’t even trotted yet. Now I’m jumping and cantering and stuff.

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I even competed in a small show they had there (and actually won first place!)

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from another gopro video

But what’s really made Skyline good for me is all the ground experience I’m getting. I’ve learned so much more through helping out with lessons than if I were just taking them myself.

Honestly, I don’t know what my horse future has in store for me. But I’m just going to keep in stride with it, to use a horse term. Hehe.

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If it’s anything like how things have been so far, I don’t think I’ll ever be bored.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}