Riding on the beach below, my powerful little sports horse held between my draw rein and my spur fixed over my Nike Air trainers and topped off with my fashionable chaps. It was the mid-Nineties and I was called out by a dog walker on my appallingly bad horsemanship, and I deserved it. I was an anxious and frustrated teen at times, and I felt rubbish and humiliated by the experience. Looking back at the same location roughly 20 years on and things are rosier. Just as I was a keen horse geek in the ’90s, I’m still one now, what motivates me most is to learn more about horses, and how to do best by them. When I know better I do better.
More about the draw rein incident. I didn’t actually own draw reins, or ride with them often. I did see other people do it, and I thought their horses looked good. I tried it myself, looping up my lunge line and fashioning it into a draw rein. I had my horse in front of my leg and his core engaged and his head in an appealing (to me) position. But the dog walker saw a different picture. He could see the torment written on my horse’s face that I couldn’t from my position in the saddle. Him being middle aged and middle class suburban Dalgety Bay type (Dalgety Bay being my suburban predominantly middle class home town) and I some obnoxious horse molesting teen, he had no trouble at all telling me off. I grunted teenage stuff and carried on until he left, then stopped riding like a ****.
I started to look at what were more acceptable ways of riding and interacting with horses. Which is not to say there haven’t been more blunders, me human, you horse and all that. But I’ve had some pretty good practice at humility as I’ve bettered myself for horses. And it’s ok to cock up as long as we learn better.