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Monday, February 14, 2011

Little Legs On Big Horses

One of my most vivid memories of early riding days at Tricorne Farm is spending a whole lot of time wrapping stirrup leathers. When your legs are too short to reach the irons on even the last hole, the simple thing to do is wrap the leathers around the top of the stirrups. If your legs are REALLY short because you're only 5 or 6 years old, you might have to wrap them two or three times. This is true especially if you've been assigned a horse instead of a pony for your weekly lesson... Who would do that, you say? Aren't small children supposed to ride small horses?

Yes, unless that small child, who thought she bounced quite well, had absolutely no compunction about such an assignment. "If I can't have Little John, I'll ride Stormy or Mister Mac or Budweiser, sure!" Never mind the painful rubbing on the legs from a wad of leather chafing there, or else the embarrassment of someone having to run for the hole punch yet again. That horse may have been large, but I was IN CHARGE:

This is me aboard a horse I'm fairly certain is Stormy, a nondescript bay grade gelding with a heart of gold. In this case there were new holes punched, since you can see the miles of extra leather hanging down. George would NOT approve!
In fact, I'm astonished at my aplomb when I look at that photo, and the home movies we have.* Was that REALLY me? How could I have been so utterly fearless? I don't remember feeling a moment's hesitation when I was really little about hopping on board any horse in the barn, no matter how tall. The fear issues I wrestle(d) with showed up later, unfortunately, but weren't and aren't related to horse size, as you'll see.

I also find it interesting that my feet scarcely reached below the saddle flap. How did those horses even feel my legs or heels? All the school horses had their own saddle, and I don't recall any thought being given to size. You took X horse/pony with his saddle, and that's what you got whether it fit you or not. Obviously, my itty-bitty rear was floating around on a sea of slick leather. It makes my hair curl just thinking about it! No wonder my grandma refused to watch when my mom dragged her to shows. If it was my kid now I'd be petrified. I bet you, though, that those too-big slippery saddles contributed quite a bit to my independence of seat and hands. :-)

Here's a photo of someone else riding Mister Mac, an Appy cross. He was a pretty tall horse with a nice white blanket:

Mr. Mac is in the foreground. Please note the wool felt saddle pad, which is what all the schoolies wore. Don't remember anyone ever getting saddle sores, either. Also, you can see the Tricorne Farm sign in the background. Wish I had a picture of just that!
I don't think I was put on this fellow very much myself, but he does figure largely in an event I well remember. I must have been about 8 or 9 at the time. When our lessons ended, sometimes we were allowed to cool out our horses by walking them around the back pasture at the stable. This was probably a couple acres in size, and had a dirt track around the circumference. One fine day a group of us were sedately ambling along (don't know who I was riding), when a terrifying event occurred: Mister Mac's saddle pad slipped. Now, most people would not think this was a terrifying event, but Mr. Mac certainly did. He took off like he had a rocket up his rear. His small rider was instantly unseated and there was widespread panic in the rest of the field. ALL of our horses ran away with us, straight towards the barn. I acted, of course, in textbook "what not to do when your horse takes off" fashion - that is to say, I screamed and flapped my arms. YAY, ME! I barely clung to the saddle as we thundered down the long side, but as soon as we careened around a corner, off I came.... luckily, landing right on the manure pile.

As I lay there bawling and wondering if I'd broken my leg - it hurt - my mother came running up. She'd witnessed the whole incident, which probably took a couple years off her life. Fortunately, nothing was hurt except my feelings. Thank goodness for a nice thick cushion of shavings and poop! :-)  I was not made to "get right back on the horse," either, but the experience did nothing to dissuade me from my equestrian ambitions. All part of the ride!

* I wish that I was a techno-whiz and knew how to get said movies from the VHS tape onto which they were transferred from Super-8, to the computer and thus onto this blog. Darn. I'm lucky I even have some of these photos, since my totally non-tech mother scanned them from the original slides. Hence the crummy quality!

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