Sherry Zimmerman Prompt: “finding a stable and starting to ride again”.
I grew up around horses and had a passion for working with livestock. We were originally a black Angus cattle operation and while we didn’t run the cattle on the range like many Montana ranches, we had fenced pastureland for the cows and when they had grazed the pasture down or needed to be brought into the corrals we would work them with horses.
From my earliest memory horses played a part. I was too young to ride Silver, my siblings’ horse, but I had my Shetland/Welsh ponies to wrangle. I graduated from riding the Shetland around the farm to riding a gentle bay saddle horse, Junior, and later, moved up to riding Buddy, a feisty quarter trained for cow cutting. A cutting horse turns on a dime, hind legs stationery, front jumping back and forth, the goal being to “cut” the cow from her calf in the weaning process. Buddy was a registered quarter horse, his name on the papers was Baby Rondo. He came from a long line of cutting horses.
I was a pretty accomplished rider—or maybe I just rode a lot. Every day after school for several years I would saddle up and ride—sometimes just up the road and back, sometimes down to the river to get lost among the cottonwoods. At one point, I took Buddy out and created little jumps for him—I pretended I was an equestrian, using a bareback pad, no western saddle, to look like the polished dressage riders I saw on TV.
When I went to Stanford, there were stables with horses. Some of the students boarded their horses there, but they also had horses to “rent.” There was an equestrian class that cost $70—back then a fortune for a student on scholarship and loans. But my senior year I decided to pop for the class and ride at Stanford. It was English riding, not western. I showed up the first day of class in my cowboy boots and jeans. The other students either had English riding gear or tennis shoes. They gave me this HUGE horse—I was used to western cow ponies and quarter horses that stood maybe 15 hands high. These horses were as tall as draft horses without the bulk, I’d guess 17 hands.
I had never sit in an English saddle, and it all felt so foreign. The big, ambling dappled mare felt just shy of a Belgian work horse, and right away I realized I was not in Montana anymore. I was used to holding the reins in one hand, a slight movement right or left would initiate the turn. These stable horses weren’t trained to neck rein, and right off the bat we got off on the wrong foot.
The class met up in the arena forming a large circle of horses and riders, all astride our gentle giants. We each rode the horse at a walk, trot, lope. I had trouble getting Big Bertha (not her real name) to do anything but walk. I was so embarrassed and my ego bruised.
So I never went back.
I know, what a big baby… but I forfeited my $70 and passed up an opportunity to learn something new. It was all just too weird.
So now, forty plus years later, I just got a flier from Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minnesota. They have riding stables, and while they focus on western saddles and trail rides, I thought to myself, I should do that! I haven’t ridden a horse in so many years I can’t even count, but it might be the next chapter for me, like rereading Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice. It’s all so familiar yet thrilling and captivating all over again.
And the private lesson at Arrowwood is only $45/hour. A bargain in today’s dollars.