We are Equestrians

October 16, 2009
“What are you doing tomorrow?” my friend questions. “I have a riding lesson early in the morning, but nothing after that,” I reply. Then comes the laugh and I know what’s coming next. “Awe, are you going to pet your pony?” he jokes. I chuckle at his ignorant joke and roll my eyes. No one ever seems to understand what really goes into riding horses. It is every bit as tough as any other sport; why don’t people see my determination and hard work? When people imagine riding a horse they think that you, as a rider, just sit there atop the horse while it does all the work. No! Riding a horse takes strength, ability, and patience when the horses test you.

“Jessica, keep your shoulders back or I’m going to go get my ‘contraption’!” barks my instructor. Oh Lord, not the “contraption.” Who knew that elastic and Velcro could be morphed into a torture device for horseback riders? My body cramps as if it has been contorted into a pretzel, and my muscles are tense from holding the “correct position” in the saddle. When I decided that I wanted to ride horses, I didn’t realize that I was going to have to work out and stretch every day. In order to ride, my body requires the same training as any football, soccer, basketball, or baseball player. “Don’t lean forward or you will lose your balance!” exclaims my instructor from across the arena. Equestrians are not for the weak minded. If you allow your thoughts to wander, allow one little slip up, it could cost you your life- literally. You must stay completely focused on the fifteen different things you are doing. Leg yield right, leg yield left, move the hindquarters over, pull and release with the inside rein, bend the ribs in, keep collection, and make sure your horse maintains gait; do all of this to keep your horse in order. At the same time, the rider must your shoulders back, eyes up, heels down, seat back, inside shoulder back slightly, wrists loose, and thumbs on top of the reins.

To add to all the pressure of making sure that everything is correct, you also have to be able to put up with the put downs. “Jessica! You are doing it all wrong!” snaps my instructor from her seat against the arena fence. She rises to her feet and orders me to stop my horse. Does she have to treat me like a child just to explain that I was allowing too much slack in the reins? And when I finally get it right, all I receive is a, “Nice.” The instructors may shape you to where you want to be on the competition level, but you have to deal with a lot of garbage from them just as you would with any uptight football coach.

When playing a sport that contains some type of ball, and most do, no matter how long or how much you push it, it will not fight back because it is an inanimate object. Unlike football, when a horse decides that they are done working for the day, or if you rub them the wrong way, the will let you know with a kick, buck, rear, bite, bolt, tail swish, or ear pin. Also, every horse has a different personality and tolerance level. For example; the two horses that I ride are Tia and Remy. Tia has a very gentle personality and will tolerate just about anything that I put her through making her perfect for pleasure and basic riding lessons. Dominate Remy, on the other hand, will explode if you push him too far. I ride him for dressage lessons and when he decides that he is done working for the day, he will let you know. Does your tennis ball try to kill you with a blow upside the head? No, didn’t think so.

With every sport comes competition. But with horseback riding, comes several competitions: dressage, hunter/jumper, eventing, driving, saddle seat, barrel racing, pole bending, trail class, calf roping, steer wrestling, keyhole, and endurance just to name a few. You have to find the one that you and your horse are good at and enjoy. Just the fact that you are on a horse, a wild animal, makes any one of these competitions dangerous. Then, you have events like cross country where you and your horse are galloping over four foot jumps at twenty-five miles per hour. The only protection you have is a vest and helmet which are required. Unlike many other sports, there is a chance of death every time you compete.

With workout, coaches, and competition, equestrians work just as hard, if not harder, as any other sport. The next time that someone tries to tell me otherwise, they can go hop on my bucking bronco of a horse and I will let them decide for themselves.

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AandG This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm
definitely agree with the article :) it's powerful and very true. Also, nice writing!
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