Friday, October 26, 2012

Bad Riding Doing Good

Recently, I read a post on FHOTD, or maybe Snarkyrider, where the readers were having a gay old time making fun of a rider on a sale video. Yeah, I know, it's a nasty addiction, reading those comments, like picking at a half-healed scab.

Thing is, I watched the video, immediately dismissed the rider, and enjoyed watching a very nice horse toodle around the arena. The rider wasn't very good, but she had the gelding moving along and showed how patient and clean-limbed he was. My thought was the video was supposed to show a horse someone might want to buy and it did.

It got me thinking about the importance of riding well, vs. the importance of well, riding. The horse in the video was motoring along pretty well, there was some head tossing and tail snapping, but nothing too out of line. It was like he was saying, "Hey there Missy, watch those hands!" Not a big show of pain or temper.

There is a good sized population of riders who spend every second of every minute they are with their horses being correct. From clothes, to grooming, to saddles, to their instructor, to the footing in the arena, everything is always correct.

This isn't discipline specific BTW, it's a mindset a person is sometimes born with, but is often trained into. Ir's easy enough to get there, horses are great, big, snorty critters, and lots of things can go wrong while we're trying to sort out how to go forward, turn left, turn right, and the ever important STOP.

In addition, there's so much to learn. It never stops, the learning, and there is always a better rider in the arena with you, no matter how far up the food chain you crawl.

Becky asked me once how I would define a beginning, intermediate and advanced rider.

This is what I came up with.

Beginning rider: Horse spooks, rider falls off.

Intermediate rider: Horse spooks, rider stays on, wonders what the hell just happened.

Advanced rider: Rider feels the spook coming, assesses the situation while settling in the saddle and handles the oncoming reaction as needed.

The bottom line here is when we begin with horses, we start with the mechanics. How to sort out all the buckles and straps. What a well shod foot looks like. What does a thin or fat horse look like. How to sit, how to steer, how to use our body as communication.

Eventually we get those things sorted out (one would hope) and need to move onto the next level of horsemanship, perception. The ever elusive ability to feel and read your horse. Just as important, to get your horse to feel and read you.

We need to ride well enough to keep ourselves mounted when stuff happens, so we can get lost in thought and sensation. During this period of time, none of us are riding really well. Our seat is secure enough, our hands are no longer using the reins as a balance point, our legs do more than flail around, but we haven't acquired the ease  you see in the riders you wish you were.

This is an important cross roads in becoming a rider. How do we get through it and onto the next level? By heading back to the arena, our instructor, our trainer? By forcing ourselves to step up and conquer the next step in learning? Some do, but I think they've just stuck a big mental roadblock in front of themselves, because what they've done is gone back to the mechanics instead of starting on their perception.

We're sucked into thinking the placement of our heels and how much our elbows flap are the reason we don't look like the better riders. But the fact is, lots of riding and feeling, without much thought, is how you will get your body in the right spot because that's where it works, when you can feel the nuance of your horse through the saddle, when the rhythms between you and your horse become almost indiscernible, then your elbows will settle, your heels will drop, and you will begin to really ride.

Guess how this comes about? By riding. Just getting on and going. Not getting shouted reminders and criticism, not dwelling on posture, where your feet are or which seat bone is doing what, but losing yourself into the horse and the ride, and trusting your training and muscle memory to take care of the mechanics.

I went on a beautiful, long trail ride on Odin with a good friend this past weekend. I wasn't working on anything more than having fun and exposing my colt to a little more of the world. We walked the first few miles, than picked up a long trot, walk, long trot way of going for the next six miles or so. Any time we were travelling uphill and Odin wanted to lope, I let him. It's my way of getting a youngster comfortable with loping on the trail.

When we came to the last couple miles, we were crossing some beautiful open fields and we had a nice long gallop. I wasn't thinking about my seat, my hands, nothing but the bottomless blue sky, the sound of the grass and weeds crackling and the feel of my steady little colt, when all of a sudden, there it was. So clear, so solid, so different than things have been the last few months, I couldn't help but, "Yip!"

You see, my seat has been off. Not terribly, but enough to bother me. I blame it on not being able to ride enough. I also blame it on being crooked, getting old, turning into a cry-baby-sissy-pants, the usual wah-wahs. All of these things are true, to a point.

 I've been working on it too. Trying to balance my seat bones, messing with my leg position, my shoulders, you name it. I was better, but not fixed.

Here I was, dinking along on a ride and playing, not thinking for even a second about impending horse shows  or people noticing how my riding has slacked off, and BAM! my seat was back. It felt great, wonderful, fantastic. Odin flicked an ear and smoothed out a bit, so he felt it too.

None of my tinkering in the arena was ever going to help. Because the mechanics can get in the way of our feel. I had mixed up the two, and was oiling the wrong parts.

During my visit with Tim this year, he wasn't worried about my horse or my riding.

"It's all there, you just have to tighten the screws. Don't go all obsessive on it (who,me?) just keep it in mind while you ride."

Great, I thought, here he goes, getting all esoteric on me, and I, as usual, have to pick out the meaning behind these two short sentences.

Of course, as usual, Tim meant  just what he said, nothing more or less. It took letting my horse go across a field to sort it out. I needed to ride until things fell back into place.

The key here is balance. Knowing when we need to work on mechanics and when to move on to perception. When we start out there are going to be big city block sizes of each to work through. As our experience increases we'll shift back and forth by the week, the day, the hour, the minute.

My trail ride reminded me how important it is to keep both in balance, and to know when to let go and just go ride -- no matter how I think I look. By the end of the ride everything felt right.

Now I can go back to the mechanics and start tightening some of those screws.


  1. This is just such an awesome entry.

    I'm an advanced beginner to intermediate rider and have been stuck in the mechanics, getting very self-critical, even crying in dressage lessons because "I know I suck!" My jump lessons have gone better, I think because hey, there's a jump there, and I have to pay attention to it, not to whether my legs are stable, my elbows are just so, my hands soft. Trail riding has been equally good.

    Anyway... on Sunday, my horse went dead lame in the right front, at a show, in front of the judge (ugh!) She is still lame and we don't yet know what is wrong with her, but in any case, I don't expect to be on her again before sometime in November, or December, or even later depending what is wrong.

    Here's the thing: I am not missing riding. At all. I think I am so burned out from pushing myself, yet convinced it would be a disaster if I pulled us out of training and "just rode" for a few months.

    Lesson learned.

    (That said, I am going to do a once a week longe lesson for a while, because it *will* help, ultimately, and if all I have to do is think about position -- not also getting the horse to do this or that -- my brain may calm down a bit.)

  2. One of the best blog posts I have read in a very long time. Well done. Amen sista!

  3. This entire post. Exactly what is going on with me. I think too much of the mechanics and the maneuver without allowing myself to feel it. Then, by some spark or miracle, I am on the trail, or dinking in the arena and it is there crystal clear. Then I try and mimic it again, or take a lesson, or go to a show, or whatever, and focus on it and it is gone. I wish I knew the secret of keeping it.

  4. I have that problem - my "thinking" often gets in the way of my riding. I'm so afraid I'm going to do it "wrong" or "mess up" my horse that I over think things and make them way worse/harder than they need to be. The most beautiful riding I do is when I'm not THINKING I'm just DOING. My trainer often fusses at me because she wants me to just react and do based on what I'm feeling, not wait for her to tell me what I "should" do.

  5. I'm one of those riders who has had it 'trained' into me. I'm terrified of getting away from the arena. Getting away from lessons. And yet, the older I get the more that's what I want. To just ride. In my lessons we're constantly focusing on how I have too much tension in everything. I'm betting a few months of doing things without worrying about how I looked (trail riding, different disciplines) would take care of that!

  6. I think I was lucky that my 'arena' was a single cord 20 x 40m dressage arena in a 20 acre paddock - and the cord was only up until we'd worn a track in to the grass. We would get told to 'close your eyes and just ride, sometime on the lunge, sometimes just tooling around the paddock - it's great what you can feel when you close your eyes and ride.

  7. MIND MELD! Perfect timing with this post, lady!

    I don't think I'm a great rider. I can ride, I know what to do, I passed all the tests but I'm not pretty, my shoulders slouch and my back curves wrong. I always worry that I'm sitting crooked and totally hindering my horses. So there's where my brain's at usually.

    Going from goofing off all my life to becoming an instructor makes me think about this tension between "riding well" and "just riding." I have to teach them how to ride correctly, and I want to develop good solid riders. But I have to make the lessons fun, not a drill.

    I know there's no replacement for saddle time. And for me, three hours a week (if I'm lucky) isn't quite enough. Could have worse problems though eh?

    Training and practicing is necessary but for my sake and for my horses, I need to remember how to have fun too! Today I was riding in the field and I tried to just feel and not think about being a technically correct rider. She's not a spooky horse but I wondered if I could deal with it if she went off. Maybe after all these years I could. Nothing happened. But I did notice that my back and my waist felt more **moveable**. Does that make sense?


  8. "In addition, there's so much to learn. It never stops, the learning, and there is always a better rider in the arena with you, no matter how far up the food chain you crawl."

    And that right there is why I get out of bed in the morning. As long as I am on this earth I will never be done learning!

  9. Amen to everything and can I add one more thing? ANYONE can critique a video/photo/ what-have-you from in front of a computer (this coming from someone who has received those lovely critiques, aka Bashes, a few times) and one thing I can say is this... If you REALLY want to help someone, instead of bashing them and sending them nasty emails (or commenting nasty comments on FHOTD or Snarky) why dont you contact them and offer ADVICE in a kind manner!

    Bashing on people from behind a computer is cowardly and rude and shows a lot about your character. Anytime I receive those type of comments (after I cry in my horses mane for a few minutes) I sit back and realize, you know I know I still have some issues, but my hands are light, my seat is getting better by the day and my horses are happy to do their jobs :)

  10. Love this and perfect timing! My new horse is lovely and is helping me just enjoy riding again and not worrying about perfection. But you are correct I need MILES to fix my issues, not lessons where I work on perfection.

    BTW I had a moment where I went "whose this Tim guy and where is Big K?"

  11. It isn't limited to riding. I think (darn, I'm doing it again) we need to get out of our heads in many aspects of our lives and get back to feeling.

  12. Love the post. Even if the rider sucks, as long as the horse is happy, well, the rider is going to get better.

    However, in that video, the horse was not the happiest, and I definitely would not have allowed the rider to be jumping. The rider screwed up a flying change, and if that horse wasn't light on it's feet it would have tripped. You have to draw the line somewhere...

  13. Sorry Anon - don't agree. The horse was fine.
    The rider needs to learn, but she didn't come off over the jump, nobody died. I simply don't think that well fed, well behaved horse needs protecting because you don't like the way the young woman's arms flap. And sitting around bashing her riding is not helping the horse in any way.
    It's just a bunch of intolerant meanness.
    So, you're telling me you've never messed up a lead change?
    My, you are a good rider.Good for you.

  14. Mona Sterling - Life is too short.

    Justaplainsam- I can't tell you how many times I wrote in Tim and barely caught it in time. Now I'll probably start writing in Big K...

    Susan - I couldn't agree more.

  15. Yeah.

    Mocha and I finally made it into a set of reining and Trail classes. We did well in Trail (especially the pole on barrel) and would have done well in reining...but the stupid pilot miscounted the spins at the end...and got DQed.

    Still...trainer said we were the best out there at speed, showed true variation between fast and slow, and the straightest backup.

    And how we got there was that in the last six months, I just started letting her thunder around and just *riding.* Like I used to as a kid, thundering around the pasture on my pony.

    Similar physical issues here, at least with regard to back and hips. It all nails me when I try to overcontrol it.

    But when I sit down and just *ride* gets better.

    And one of the most freeing things I can think of was ditching my hat at the gate during my first circle. Then sitting down to *ride.*

  16. I definitely have some issues with my riding, one that I just noticed the other day when a friend videoed me riding my new horse. At the lope, going on the left lead my left leg swings. Didn't even know I was doing that! Now I have to figure out how to stop that leg from swinging with every stride. I am not doing it on purpose to keep the horse moving...Part of me thinks its from the deformity of my left foot, but can't tell for sure. But on the note of going for a nice leisure trail ride, I think it does EVERYONE good, horse AND rider! We need to get out and think of something else and enjoy life, take a deep breath and take life in at a slow pace for a change! Thats where you find yourself and like you said Mugs, you find your seat and figure some little(or big) stuff out!

  17. This. This is exactly why I love your blog.

    I didn't comment on your "revelation" post (I felt that the other hundred or so commentators had already said everything), but I feel I need to pitch in too: As much as I love your stories with Mort, Tally, Cupcake etc., these are the posts that really do it for me. You have a truly wonderful talent to give us readers some food for thought.

    You've also woken the passion inside me to ride again. With the help from your posts I have some ideas where to focus when I someday start my lessons again. This post also made me realize I need to do more trail riding (something I've always overlooked). At the same time I'm truly terrified about my poor balance and just how much I will suck at it. But the passion wins. I HAVE TO get near horses again.

    Love you, love your blog, (oh, and the name Tim confuses me too!)

    Tiina (from Finland)

  18. I've been reading your blog for a while and never commented but, I'm so glad you decided to keep blogging. Your description of beginner, intermediate and advanced rider made me laugh and it's so true! I've done most of my riding out in the wide open spaces of CO and have only taken a few lessons so, I'm not too obsessed about anything and you're right that when you stop over thinking and analyzing things, you really start to ride! I used to feel bad because I don't know a lot of technical stuff about riding but, my horses and I have a good connection and we have fun and I think that's so important because when it's not fun anymore then I won't be doing it!

  19. Yip!

    I thoroughly enjoy my lessons, and I have the utmost respect for my instructor, but I do need my trail time. This could be because I am not being watched. I am in the moment on the trail, and not worried about if my 20 meter circle is perfect, where M or F are, or if my halt is square.

    A few weeks ago I took my little arab out on the trail to open him up a little. There is a lovely trail that follows Beaver Creek and we were just skimming along eating up ground. I was so into the moment. I was relaxed, could care less where M was, confident in my abilities, and felt as if I was a part of him. I saw his left ear flick to the left. I felt his body shift. I felt him change leads, but I did not react nearly fast enough. I was laughing with pure joy when he went left and I went right at a full gallop. I was still laughing when I hit the ground and when I got up...and hurting a wee bit.

    That pony stopped on a dime and looked at me as if I was a crazy old woman. I apologized profusely and he snorted and shook his head as if to say, "You should apologize."

    My lessons learned that day? I can TRUST my pony; I am a decent rider; I can fall off pretty hard and still am happy to hop back on without fear and trepidation; I better listen closer to his conversations with me; and, I need to work on him not anticipating our next move. So we will go back to the arena and work on that with my instructors help and input over the next two months until I put him away for six weeks come January.


  20. If you want to see a bunch of different riding styles, go on a popular trails. Sometimes I want to say "get off that horse's mouth!", but in reality, most of those horses are so used to their riders (who have halfway decent seats) that they would not know the difference (i.e. gaited horses). And the horses and their riders are having a blast!

    I got my much better seat from trail riding a lot. To the point someone wanted me to tune up a horse they were thinking of selling on the trails (they decided to keep the horse instead at my encouragement).

    If I look at where I was when I first took Starlette on the trails (we both scared the ranger so much she check for us to get back) and the way I am now, I shake my head in wonder. And the only thing that made a difference was hours and hours and hours each week on my horse.

    Now I am jumping logs while on the trails...guess what, I lose my stirrups (I stayed on by holding her mane), my mare runs out after the jump at a full gallop and almost dumps me, and my gelding *did* dump me by suddenly changing directions after he landed. So now I have more to learn and look like a beginner all over again, at least with the jumping.

    Great post as usual.

  21. Love this post - it reminds me of an old one, on a trained horses versus a broke horse. Give me "broke" any day! We trail ride - lots of miles, lots of terrain, and my horses are trustworthy, calm, having a great time, and go where I want. While we could be more refined, we surely couldn't be having a better time out there.

    A video of my best girl, Jet. This is what fun looks like:

  22. I was a bad girl this summer...ashamed to admit that I practiced just a few times in the arena for my Mike Bridges clinic homework. And, I haven't shown this year except for a couple of local cuttings. Colt and I have been doing day work all summer; branding, gathering, sorting etc...I call it playing (goofing off).

    When the fall clinic came around, I was not feeling prepared at all (knowing it was my own fault) and was ready to have my arse chewed for not doing my homework. But it all came together beautifully. I was amazed! Colt did things that I didn't know he could leg yield at the canter on a 40 foot circle!

    What I figured out was that while we were just working cows we were learning...I didn't know how much, but we were learning. Chasing rogue calves through the sagebrush at a dead run had its benefits! It was perfecting his feel and mine with both legs and rein cues!

    If I had made it a goal to leg yield in a circle at a canter and practiced it until we could do it in an arena, we probably would have gotten there...but it wouldn't have come to him (or me) as naturally. You all know how we get in the way of our horses movements.

    So, give you and your horse some credit. Every ride is a learning the arena or outside on the trail.

    Great post Mugs...made me wrap my head around where Colt and I are going on our journey.

  23. Love this! This is why, after purchasing my mare this spring, I decided we are going to focus on endurance instead of dressage. My mare is way more advanced in dressage than I am, lol.
    I know that I could take lessons and learn and we could probably rock dressage but would both be miserable and picking at each other while we learned how to "look just right." So instead, we are just bouncing along covering as many miles as possible to get us both into shape and are having a blast!
    When I bought her, she was a hard-to-bit, quick-to-kick arena baby who walked into a sagebrush branch the first time I took her on the trail. I was a rusty intermediate rider just getting back into things and I'm so glad I chose to laugh at us instead of correcting us constantly.
    Five short months later, I hop on and we take off across the fields in much better spirits. Yes, I still flop around some in the saddle and yes, she still fights the bit from time to time but the difference in both of us is amazing already.
    For the first time in a loooong time, I'm excited each and every time I climb on.

  24. what speed do you have to be able to sit a spook to be an intermediate ride.... I may not have it at a gallop just yet lol!

    I've been too hung up on trying to teach myself to be perfect, you're right I just need to ride and let everything else fall into place.

  25. Going to add.... Every now and then on the trail I have moments when I can close my eyes and really feel my horse moving, when I open them in that moment everything seems more vivid, colours more vibrant, and I can see in more detail... It might just be me... But it's neat.

  26. Greenie -- I think it's all of us...
    horsaii anyway.

    Gyttyup -- I've done the majority of my two-rein work on Madonna on the trail.
    Once a month or so I check out her dry work in the arena, twice a month or so we work cattle, the rest of the time we are riding the trails.

    She doesn't object to her bit at all. She uses the thing, I'm sorting out how to keep my hand where it should be, and my butt in the middle.

    I envy you you're summer, but mine hasn't been so bad.

  27. I loved this post!

    I have taken riding lessons for most of my life. I realized as a teenager that something was missing. I wanted more saddle time, but not more instruction time. I began cleaning stalls on my days off and leased a horse that I could ride as often as I wanted. My riding improved in leaps and bounds. Even my lessons were more meaningful. Sometimes you just need more miles in the saddle. Feel cannot be taught in lessons anyway.

  28. I wrote a longish, whiney comment earlier about how I used to be such a good rider when my old horse Toby was alive. We were so familiar with each other, mentally and physically that I didn't have to think about riding. Then he died, and now I have a young horse, Cowboy, he feels me being nervous and I feel him being nervous, and we make each other worse. If only Toby were still alive, I would still be an advanced rider, in spite of all my other age-related problems.

    Then the comment got lost in cyber space, and instead of re-writing it, I went out and rode Cowboy. I had more fun on him than I can ever remember. No, he isn't Toby, and that's a good thing. Toby was a huge, handsome, OTTB hunter, who never gave up being spooky or high strung. He never stood still for saddling or mounting, and he could be tricky when I bridled him.

    I've spent two years teaching Cowboy all the things I wanted Toby to learn. Today he stood still while I groomed and bridled him, ground tied while I moved stuff around the arena and closed the gate. He stood still when I mounted and waited until I was ready for him to move. He did feel a little tense, with a hump in his back for a couple minutes, but then he went to work and really tried everything I asked him. Why didn't I notice that before? Yes, I can ride him through a spook, and I can feel it before it happens. That's one nice thing about him, he lets you know what's coming. But I noticed today that he's more willing to calm down when I ask him. I feel like I actually rode today.

  29. Love reading everyone's stories on how they are learning to Be with their mounts.

  30. What I thought when I watched, that video was yes, maybe it wasn't the best sales video ever. More importantly though, when I try a horse for someone else to buy, I deliberately ride like a novice to start with. I want to see what happens if the contact is uneven, if the rider bobbles a transition, if they're a little slow to react. How the horse handles that and then adapts when I begin to ride more effectively tells me an awful lot about the horses temperament and trainability.

  31. RedHorse: That was pretty much the best comment I've ever read. :) It made me smile.

  32. Becky,

    know what? I was thinking of you when I wrote it. I love how you just spill everything out on the page. Pride be damned! So, thanks.

  33. FD - just don't end up on facebook!

  34. Pffft, facebook, youtube, people are equally horrible on either!

  35. This reminds me of the concept of the "good enough mother" which I think started with a psychoanalyst called Winnicott but which I came across when my children were little and I was reading a few parenting books. Long story short, it's not necessary to be a Park Slope-style Tiger or Helicopter style mum, micromanaging every aspect of your child's day, in order for your children to thrive. Sounds very similar to what you are saying here Mugs. The "good enough rider?"

  36. I'm reminded of my old Sensei from Karate I took years ago. To train a Samurai, the Samurai spent 7 year (maybe more) learning the techniques of combat. Then they spent 3 years learning to read and write with little emphasis on combat. After those three years, they were considered Samurai.

  37. ah you just explain these things so perfectly! it's hard to strike a balance between learning, training and just letting it happen, but you've nailed it.

    I can identify with quietann's comment about being moved to tears in lessons through sheer frustration - I'm working hard to pass western exams after riding english for 20 years - if it wasn't so darned satisfying, i'd have walked away for sure!

    Amen to never stopping learning!

  38. Yes, I had a moment like this when I took Libby for a trail ride. I take riding lessons every week, and I strive to be balanced in the saddle. Working so hard at it, I could not find that balance. Went for a leisurely trail ride and that balance found me! Love this post!

  39. This deep feeling hit me very hard the other day. I am training my QH/Paint for an endurance ride (it's this weekend eek!), and so we've been doing many, many miles on the trail. We are true partners, though we fight at times. Believe me, we've had quite a history of fighting- I had to learn how to ask him rather than tell him, and to not back down when he becomes bullheaded. Through our trail work, I've learned to use his judgement along with my intelligence.

    Yet, I didn't realize how strong our working bond had become until we were flying along at a super fast trot on a narrow (about 24") trail with a cliff on one side, complete with raging river below. Up ahead, I saw a bunch of huge, sharp brush, but I couldn't risk making him off balance by asking him to suddenly slow down. So, I closed my eyes, ducked my head, and continued to post, right through those bushes, hearing his hoofbeats pound and the rapids roar . I knew he would keep us safe. It was complete trust, and it was wonderful.

  40. Love this! I couldn't agree more!

  41. Wow, I think you just hit the nail on the head for me.... I get so concerned with my what-to's that I get too tense in the how-to's.

  42. Totally agree. I wondered how on earth all those snide commenters would look, riding that horse. She wasn't terrible. Good grief, the readers of SNARKS/Fugs must not be able to ride for shit.

  43. Some of the best advice I've ever received.

  44. Although I've learned a ton working with my instructor in the ring, I'd have to say I really learned how to RIDE by just riding bareback out on the trails with the girls. That's the place where I can definitely say I've had the most fun.

  45. I loved this post - so much of it rings true. I had patchy lessons growing up (we couldn't afford them) but was able to catch bareback rides on green horses. Do I ride perfectly? Nope. Did I fall off? All the time. Did I start falling off less? Yup.

    I got some lessons in between then and now (I'm 57) but I still think that experience helped me tremendously.

    About 2 months ago I got to the barn late (near closing) but wanted to ride a bit so threw the side-pull/hackamore on my horse and hopped on bareback. It was in the ring, not that much fun, but it was riding.

    He was a little fresh, and it was an enjoyable ride. Afterwards, one of the other boarders said to me "You have the best balance! I could never do that!" Surprised, I said, "Oh, I'm wobbly - you just can't see it."

    But that made me feel pretty good. :)

  46. I loved the topic of this post and the relaxed, conversational tone of the writing. I wish I could hear you and Will Rogers together telling stories! I am a sporadic rerider over the course of the year since my horses are in a differnt country than where I am living now and I can only go to see them twice a year or so. So I go from no riding at all to at least four hours a day for 2 to 4 weeks. So my focus is only on riding and spending as many hours in as short a time. I am sure that the first few days the horses are understanding but they send loud signals to help me readjust. :) One of the silver linings of this situation is I savour every moment of our time - there is no taking for granted of any precious second.

    I have never had "lessons" other than books and my grandpa teaching me to help with the cows but my grandpa did do something for which I will always be grateful; I got my first pony, Baldy, for my fifth birthday. I got a saddle for my sixth. That year of exclusively bareback helped to instill deep muscle memory that I rely on today, 3 decades later, as a sporadic rerider.

    I just love this blog.