Saturday, May 21, 2011

Experience the Outer Banks on Horseback

I love visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina and will write a more detailed blog soon about all of the horse-related history and things to do there. I wrote a guest blog for the Emmy-winning TV show on PBS Equitrekking about riding on the beach. I've ridden there twice so far. Once with my daughter (in the guest blog), and the second time with non-rider husband and a very good horsey friend who will be the subject of future blog posts. The second trip was just as amazing and fun as the first.

You can read the guest blog here.  Equitrekking has a great web site with lots of travel ideas, articles and news. You should also check out the TV show. I hope to interview the creator and host, Darley Newman, for my blog in between her world travels.

But don't wait for a blog post to plan your trip to OBX (shorthand for Outer Banks). Anytime of year is great--especially spring and fall. The locals are friendly, there is so much to do there and if you like to fish, surf or enjoy any other water sports, you are going to the right place. 

People tell me I should work for a convention and visitor's bureau because I am always recommending places to eat and things to do. Email me if you would like some suggestions for your next OBX trip. Oh, and don't forget to make your reservations for beach riding at Equine Adventures.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

After Twenty Years--Just Like Riding a Bike

I love the story of how my cousin Kim decided that she needed to start riding again. Three days a week, her daily drive took her past a stable where she could see some horses and riders in a large jump ring or in the next field practicing cross-country. One day, it suddenly occurred to her that as an adult, she could decide for herself that she wanted to ride—gone were the days when she had to beg her parents to arrange for lessons.

And, Kim was a lucky kid—lots of summer camps with riding and an uncle who owned a couple of Arabians close to a network of trails. But the financial demands of graduate school and getting started in career and motherhood made her hang up her helmet for a while.

At a family get-together, Kim asked me about places to ride in the area. I had forgotten that Kim used to ride herself. I offered to show her around the two barns where I spend my time and after a few weeks, she was enrolled in weekly lessons. “I was intimidated to start riding after twenty years,” says Kim. I was there for Kim’s debut back in the saddle. She was nervous that she would forget to tighten the girth or something, but it all came back to her quickly, like riding a bike.

“The best part of riding is getting away from everything for a little while. As a part-time working mother of two young kids, this is the only activity that I do that is only for me and no one else. Everything else in my life is to take care of someone else,” says Kim.
When I was getting ready to start my blog and asked Kim how she felt about riding again. I think many readers can relate:
“I am a very different rider than I was 20 years ago. I am a lot more tentative. I mostly ride one horse named Truce. She is exactly what I enjoy most about riding. From what I have been told, she used to be a dressage horse, so she is responsive to my cues. I enjoy learning about her and seeing how we can improve our communication with each other. She is very stable and I trust her quite a bit. I really dislike riding horses that scare me or if I feel like I can't trust them. That to me, at this point in my life, is not enjoyable. I understand riding different horses can improve your riding skills. It's just at my age of 43, I don't care about improving my skills as much. For me it is all about the enjoyment versus the challenge. I ride because I enjoy it, and when I ride Truce it relaxes me and gets my mind off everything else going on in my life.”

Kim and Truce, majestic thoroughbred and former dressage horse, now serving as Chief Confidence Builder for returning riders
I asked Kim about how other's react to her riding again. She told me, "that has been the most surprising thing. Most people look at me like I am out of my mind. I feel like they don't get why a grown woman would like to still be riding. I am usually the only adult woman in a class of girls. My peers are the mothers who are sitting on the bench watching their daughters. At the same time, I have been taken off guard by the (admittedly much smaller) number of women who light up when I tell them about my riding. These women share that they too used to ride and that they have thought about starting to ride again. My husband tries to be supportive. I just think sometimes he doesn't understand what riding means to me since he is not a rider himself. I think that is why I like spending time at the barn--you just know that everyone there 'gets it' and understands the passion for horses and riding."

Hmmm, sounds familiar!

Editor’s Note: Truce is a very special mare. At 17 hands, she is a stately thoroughbred and one of queens of the barn. She is a delight to ride and one of my favorites, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Activating the Horse Gene

Anyone afflicted with the gene knows exactly what I am talking about. Those without haven’t a clue. They can’t even begin to understand why those who have this mysterious distraction act the way they do. Here are a few universally acknowledged signs that indicate an activated horse gene. Signs usually present during early to mid-childhood:
  • Complete obsession with equines--crazed by horses, ponies (even donkeys, mules and zebras serve in a pinch)
  • Reading every book in the library about horses (or internet)
  • Decorating one’s childhood bedroom with magazine photos or hand-drawings, leaving little room for anything else
  • Creating detailed holiday lists with specific instructions about which model horse is required for an already huge collection
  • Pretending to be a horse (especially when out of town guests arrive) or having an imaginary stable outside and training horses over jumps constructed out of items pulled from the garage or the neighbor’s yard
You get the idea.  Sounds like an undiagnosed mental disorder, doesn’t it?

I can’t tell you how often as a kid I was asked, “Why do you love horses so much?” Only a non-horse person would bother to ask such a question, and a grown-up at that. The funny thing is, I never could ever adequately answer the question. “I just do; I don’t know why,” was my reply. I was a pretty shy kid, so being asked to articulate an answer was painful enough, let alone trying to explain it. What a silly question anyway—why isn’t everyone enamored with these beautiful creatures? You have to ask?

Testing for the Horse Gene
Here is a simple test. If you have a daughter or niece or know a little girl under the age of ten, try this simple test. (Yes, it works with boys, too, but girls seem to be particularly susceptible, not sure why).
  1. Procure a model horse, preferably a Breyers or other very realistic model. Forget the cartoony baby toys—go for realism.
  2. Present model to small girl, when least expected
  3. Observe the reaction—you will know instantly by the look of utter amazement and surprise
  4. If she does not exhibit said reaction, she may not carry the horse gene. If she does, then be ready to suffer the consequences— from your non-horsey family member or friend or colleague who will then curse you to the end of your days. Because once the gene has been activated, there is no turning it off. It may lie dormant for periods or time, but it is never eradicated.