Out of my bike saddle and on to the next. This one was much more comfortable but I wasn’t so sure about the whole riding thing while in the ring getting used to the horse, the commands and who was in charge. My sister looked comfortable with her steed, poised, sitting tall, hands holding the reins comfortably. She has ridden before. Bev, our guide and owner told us the horses would test us and they did.
Bev is the proprietor of Paradise Acres Ranch located just around the corner from where we live. Her and her husband own 11 horses and board another 47. Their property is spectacular and spacious tucked away between Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Moriarty on Vancouver Island.
Avalanche was the name of my horse, a white Cremello with big blue eyes. My sisters’ was Blazen, a grey Arabian Quarter horse with large brown eyes.
To get Avalanche going I had to do a clicking sound with my cheeks. Problem was that my instinct was to pull on the reins at the same time. Bev told me that that was sending a mixed message to the horse because pulling on the reins is asking the horse to slow down. Poor thing, I can imagine what he was thinking, “Ok lady, stop or go, make up your mind”. A simple “whoa” with a tug on the reins made the horse stop and then you released the reins again. Your legs should be relaxed at the knees with the heel of your foot pushing downwards. I had a tendency of squeezing my legs, which made Avalanche go faster. Oops!
Our horses obviously knew the route and when Bev’s horse Jackson started to trot, they all did. When trotting, the reins are shortened for better grip because you get bounced around, up and down, out of the saddle a bit. It’s a whole new experience and you have to wonder who really is in control. I tried to go with the flow of my horse’s trot and started to laugh because my head was now like a bobble head. I can’t imagine what a full gallop would be like but apparently it is a lot smoother and quicker. I didn’t need that my first time out.
In the first hour we were both getting used to our horses and how they reacted to our movements and commands for turning left and right, adjusting our postures forward or back depending on whether we were going up or down hills. Through the narrow trails, low-lying branches, fallen tree trunks, I was amazed at how smart and agile these animals are for their size. They have instinct and are able to negotiate the paths even with a ditch on the side. How do they not slide off or take a misstep?
After 2 hours we both felt much more in control and I think the horses also stepped into a grove. They also knew when we were heading home because they started to speed up. “Whoa”, “whoa”…. They knew what was waiting for them, a soothing brush down and an apple treat. They did not want to hang around for pictures either at the end of the ride. And it is really hard to take pictures while riding a horse. I can visualize me working on a ranch but auditioning for “Heartland”, that’s out of the question.