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Horseback Riding: Good for Your Health?

1 Oct Mike riding a pony at a friend's house

 

I think It’s safe to say that most of us realize that riding a horse can be a risky sport. They are large animals and can pack a powerful blow. Plus, we are all familiar with what happened to Christopher Reeves (Superman).

I’ve been horseback riding several times in my life and I have my own terrifying experience to tell. Fortunately, I kept my head about me. Looking back, it all seemed like reflex reaction because I didn’t have time to think.

I was on a date with some of my date’s friends. We decided to go horseback riding at a public park. I don’t recall what park but this was when I was living in New York.

My horse kept lagging behind. The guide kept telling me to kick my horse. I was doing the best I could with those instructions but my horse didn’t seem to care. He was unresponsive. He seemed tired or sick. He wanted to go back to the stalls.  The group had to wait periodically for my horse and me to catch up.

Apparently, one of the  “friends” in our little group was getting tired of my horse lagging behind.This friend positioned his horse behind mine and I just assumed he thought that would help my horse move along. I had no idea he was going to crack my horse on the rear, scaring it half to death not to mention me, leading to the following events.

My horse reared,

Rearing horse

you know, like in the movie Zorro where the horse stands up on its hind legs clawing the air with its front hooves? I was still sitting upright but now my horse’s neck was up against my chest! Call it reflex or call it instinct but it caused me to grab on to his mane. Then, off we were like a shot!

We galloped like the wind as the saying goes and now I was facing down on the horse’s neck, just like a jockey in the Kentucky Derby! I worried that the horse would think I was egging him on in this position but I didn’t know what else to do. I was holding on to this horse for dear life! It could have been an exhilarating experience if the horse stayed on the trail. However, he decided to go down a slope  heading for the trees. In my mind, I can still feel the tree leaves and branches whistling past the top of my head, sometimes hitting their mark. Eventually, he slowly came to a stop. I had been saying, “whoa, whoa,” the whole time. I never pulled on the reins to stop him. Maybe in my subconscious I was remembering what my mother told me about my grandfather’s horse.

They say if you fall off a horse, you should get back on right away. (Probably because if you don’t, you never will again out of fear.) Well, I wasn’t thrown and I didn’t fall off. The trail guide didn’t ask me if I was ok. Clearly, I wasn’t. I was shaking. So, I was still on this horse and we continued lagging behind everyone else until the guide took us back to the stalls when the ride was completed! Truthfully, I don’t remember any more than that. I was probably angry but I was too exhausted for an argument. I didn’t get on another horse until 25 years later, and that experience was much better, with a mare that I really liked.

I have always had a love of horses. When my parents would ask me what I wanted for Christmas when I was a kid, I’d always say, “A pony!” My mother would say, “Where would we put it?” I had a ready answer, “In a stable.” I had no idea about stable costs, or the upkeep of a horse, or even the illnesses that afflicted horses. I didn’t learn those things until I was in my 40’s when I subscribed to a horse magazine. That subscription really opened my eyes.

So, thereafter I was happy to admire them from afar. I watched horse races on TV. I visited The Kentucky Horse Park. It’s a lovely place with a beautiful statue of Secretariat, my favorite race horse. I’m also a fan of dressage and horse jumping.

Kentucky Derby with friends

I went to the Kentucky Derby twice.

I went to the Belmont Race Track many years ago when I lived in New York.                     

And I’ve been to other smaller horse tracks to watch the races.

I went to a rodeo in Indiana. I think the event was held at Market Square Arena which has been imploded since then. 

Rodeo in Indiana

Rodeo in Indiana

 

I had planned to go to a dude ranch where you could work and vacation but my job interfered with those plans and I missed that opportunity.

So, it was a natural step for me to introduce my son to horses. In this photo, you can see that he had no fear. He looks like a natural if you ask me but unfortunately my love for horses didn’t transfer over to him, at least not that I know of. However, he is into many other sports and at one time had been a personal trainer at the local YMCA. Those of you who follow my blog shouldn’t be too surprised at that! My adventure with horses isn’t over yet. I can feel it in my bones! (Which are still intact and I intend for them to stay that way.)

Me and my son at a friend’s home

 

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