Can you remember the first time you rode a horse? Pictured above is an aged, curled cornered photo of me astride our hefty, chestnut racehorse called Oakley aged 4 with my sister, Amanda (at the front). My brother, sister and I were the fortunate ones to be born into a horse-loving family. My father has an unbridled passion for equines and my Mum spent her childhood riding at Brookstead pony club in Brisbane. I know there are a lot of horse-fanatical children out there who would of dreamed to have our upbringing surrounded by horses and vast expanses of space to ride them across.
Sweet, happy memories of horse play prickle my childhood. Learning to canter in black soiled paddocks, doubling bareback with school friends, failed jumping competitions at Pony Club, sitting in the long grass alongside my horse, appreciating the freedom that a horse can offer you as a child. I remember my childhood horses so well. There was Princess – a rotund chestnut pony that would snort with exertion when asked to canter and was too voluptuous to fit a saddle.
Starlight – a sway-backed bay mare that needed a red ribbon strung to her tail to warn riders at pony club she would lash out at a moment’s notice. Sapphire, my dear Sapphire, difficult and stubborn he taught me persistence. Here is a blog post about the passing of Sapphire. We never had our own horse so to speak, my sister, brother and I shared a couple of horses as we grew up according to our experience, age and interest.
When we were too young to ride on our own, we would straddle the horse up front protected by my father’s guiding hands. I remember riding bareback a lot on our childhood pony Princess. As mentioned she was too pudgy to fit a saddle and in retrospect it was the best way to learn to ride, to feel the horse without the obstruction of a saddle. I still ride bareback when I have to get my horses in, I’ll jump onto one and lead them back. I dread the day when I can’t fling myself up bareback.
As a mother with a two year old I’m wondering when is the right time to introduce my girl to riding. I don’t want to be one of those pushy horse mum’s making my child ride for my own selfish purposes. And I’m trying to prepare myself that if she doesn’t share my love for horses that’s fine too. It could definitely be the case, she may become a keen surfer instead. That’s fine – I think.
Her first horse ride was when she was 7 months old and she rode for four hours strapped into a baby carrier to reach a remote Argentinean estancia. She loved the rhythm of the horse so much, she slept for the entire trip as we tip-toed through the landscape where the light transcended into a night sky, prickled in stars.
Last year, she suffered through an entire polo season being transported from one match to the next. At that stage when asked if she wanted to sit on a horse she shook her head, or refused to split her legs. Don’t push Kate, don’t push, I kept telling myself.
A couple of months ago, I asked Finn if she wanted to sit on Arusi or Jinx who graze in our house paddock and she nodded her head. Yay! She sits up there, gives them a pat and reaches down and hugs their neck. She was only sitting for a minute but its a start.
Now she’s at the stage, of being led around, Buster holds onto her while I lead Arusi around the paddock. Also at the end of my rides, when my horse is exhausted from work, I’ll sling her up on the saddle and we’ll walk down to the front gate and back. She has more interest when she’s up with me than by herself.
It’s pretty special to be able to pass on my love of horses to my child. I can’t wait for the day where as a family we can go riding together in some far-flung destination.
I’m interested, who taught you to ride? Where did your love of horses sprout from? Have you taught your children to ride?