I have it on good authority that horses listen carefully to humans.
Sometimes, they even hear the things we don’t say.
I got to see all of that yesterday when I watched a horseback riding lesson at Lucky Stables. The young riders I saw all had to groom their horses before they could ride and my heart swelled as I watched that mutual display of gentleness and care, the human pats and the horse nudges.
“This is a tall horse to fall off of,” a first-time rider whispered to me as he tenderly brushed his assigned horse’s coat.
“She is very tall,” I whispered back. “But she looks like she knows what she’s doing. I think you’re going to be fine.”
Then, with the help of his very capable teacher, he climbed right on. We had been invited to the small group lesson by a friend of ours who has been riding for a while. She is so small she can barely hoist her saddle up over her horse’s back, but she is a very good rider. Her tiny legs only reach halfway down the horse’s side, and she still gets Goldie, her favorite horse, to respond promptly to each firm nudge.
This wasn’t an equine therapy session, but it did seem like one. Any horseback ride does. It takes a tremendous amount of trust both for a human to climb aboard an animal that weighs at least four times as much as he or she does, and for a horse to let a rider guide him past obstacles he can’t always see.
The riders I saw sat tall in their saddles, and that seemed like an excellent life skill as well. They learned to express themselves with dignity and conviction, to wait their turns, and to control their own impulses and their horse’s.
One little rider lost her focus momentarily and accidentally let her horse canter into an open stall. Then, she had to figure out how to convince her horse to back out of the stall and continue their ride. She did it with no loss of temper from either party, a great lesson in verbal and nonverbal negotiation.
“I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse,” President Reagan famously said.
If you or anyone you know has any interest in horseback riding (and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) I highly recommend Lucky Stables. We can’t wait to go back.