Tuesday, March 17, 2015

There's more to horses than riding

by Diana Kimpton

I bought my horse as a project to help with my research for There Must Be Horses. I knew he wasn’t perfect, and I even fell off him on my trial ride. (That wasn’t his fault – I caught my stirrup on the catch of a bridle path gate and was pulled off backwards.) But something deep inside me said this was the right horse for me and we had much to learn together.

Sorting out his problems proved to be much harder than I had hoped. I tried reschooling, calming supplements and numerous saddlers, but nothing worked completely. Over the years, he became much better to ride, but he remained unpredictable – prone to enormous spooks that could unseat the best of riders (which I am not).

After he landed my riding instructor on the floor, I decided to listen to what he was trying to tell me. This was a horse who didn’t enjoy being ridden. He cringed away when the saddle came out and tensed up like a coiled spring when anyone sat on his back. So I put away the saddle and told him I didn’t need to ride him anymore. He visibly relaxed and so did I. Riding had stopped being fun for me and probably never was much fun for him.

That’s when a friend suggested I should call in an equine osteopath. She duly arrived, watched him move and then poked one finger into his back in a “Does this hurt?” kind of way. Poor old fellow – he nearly went through the roof. She’d sussed out the source of his difficult behaviour – an extremely painful sacro-iliac area.

Fortunately she’s been able to treat him so he’s now pain free. But his saddle is still in store because I’ve discovered there is far more to horse ownership than riding. Fun with my horse now consists of long walks side by side, lunge work, obstacle courses and anything else that takes our fancy. We’re aiming towards liberty work which isn’t easy with a food-focused horse in a grassy field. But when I do stop him eating for long enough, it is sheer bliss to run with my horse trotting happily beside me from his own choice. That wonderful feeling of achievement and togetherness gives me more pleasure than anything I ever had while I was sitting on his back.



  1. Wonderful story :) I had a rescue mare as well for a while whose owner asked me to get some solid schooling under her girth, so to speak, to prepare her for selling on. Six months down the road I returned the pony and suggested her owner find her a home as a broodmare. She had been traumatized at a young age and owed us nothing. She overcame quite a lot during her time with me but it became unfair in my eyes to gain that trust and then pass her along again and for her to go back to zero with yet another rider. She now has a forever home (I hope) and I will always value so much of what she taught me.

  2. Diana - I had a rescue gelding that was initially too thin to ride, but I wanted to build up his stamina and muscle tone. We took many walks together through the woods, up and down some steep hillsides and it was so much fun. He seemed to enjoy it also. It's true - there are lots of ways to have fun with a horse!