are we having fun yet?

California is casually on fire right now.  Everywhere.  But mostly in wine country, which is especially hard because it’s hilly, winding, rural, and full of livestock.  And also because it means wine will be at least a little harder to come by in the not-too-distant future.

Riding non-Murray horses has been interesting.  I’ll give any horse a couple of rides before making any sweeping judgments, but sometimes you get an idea of what a pony is all about in as little as one ride.  Sometimes as soon as you sit on them…

i had a ton of fun on this bay nugget during our very first ride together. a good omen.

But what is it about riding one horse or another that is fun?  Obviously riding my horse is fun because I know all the buttons and how to press them.  We’ve also gotten to a point where I understand exactly how much to push and how much to give, so we can start to work on a few steps of really quality work that just seems to get better with every ride.  Obviously that is fun.

So what about with other horses?

Take the mama-mare I’ve been riding the last week or so as an example.  Our first ride together was… lackluster.  She fought me walking away from the arena gate (on foot and under saddle), and was magnetized to the barn-end of the arena like crazy.  The only place I could work in any semblance of a steady pace or shape was smack dab in the center of the arena.  I rode for like ten minutes.

the mom bod is strong with this one

A couple of weeks off and good fistful of rides later and this girl is my main squeeze at the barn.  She’s smart, sensitive in all the right ways, and learns really fast.  She also has a mean right drift, gets locked over one shoulder or the other really easily, and hasn’t quite figured out how to give to pressure instead of leaning in to it.  (Yeah, homegirl, you do have to move over when I put one leg and one rein on simultaneously.)

But it’s always fun riding her.  Even in the tough moments, when we can’t seem to walk in a straight line consistently, or my requests to get off my leg are met with weirdly strong mare abs.  Maybe it’s because it’s easy to see and feel her thinking and processing what we’re working on.  She also feels really honest and like she’s trying, in the moment when she’s not being openly defiant.  She slows down to think when I ask her to, responds to my seat… really, just my kind of ride.

In contrast, a certain Barbie Dream Pony I’ve also been riding lately has not been quite as much fun.

Image result for haflingerbreed hint: it rhymes with pfefferlinger.

Interestingly, the BDP has the same mean right-shoulder drift and locking mechanism that the mama mare seems to have.  He is smart and food motivated, and he learns… well, not super fast, but he’s not a moron.  And I’ve ridden him fewer times than the mama mare, so maybe that is contributing to our lack of jelly.  He’s not mean spirited or dangerous in any way, but I kinda get the feeling that he’s not listening to me.  That he’s just phoning it in.

So maybe that’s the reason I don’t have as much fun with the BDP.  A big part of our rides consist of me trying to convince him to pay some attention to what I’m trying to tell him so that we can actually get something done.  I think we all know that it’s frustrating to be ignored.

Now that I write it out, I think there really is something to this.  That I have more fun on a horse who seems like they are listening.  Because the mama mare basically doesn’t canter for more than one big circle at a time right now, and she’s almost as much fun to ride as my own horse.  But the haffie, who is capable of executing all three gaits, is just… not that fun.  Riding my friends’ horses also can go either way in this regard — sometimes they just don’t know how to listen to me because they’re so in tune with their person and I’m NOT that person.  And sometimes you get really good instructions and they listen to you perfectly and it’s AMAZINGLY fun.

What about you?  What makes a fun ride for you guys?  Is it as intellectual and annoyance based as me?!

6 thoughts on “are we having fun yet?”

  1. Yes I definitely think a ‘fun’ ride has a lot to do with the horse being a good listener! Even if they are super green, if they are trying to do what you ask it makes things a LOT more fun. For me, too, ‘fun’ is also related to how physically comfortable I am on the horse. If the horse is so wide my hips are cracking apart or they just have really big gaits that are tough to sit, that’s much less fun. Some horses are fun from the get-go (Sully!) and others take a few rides to get fun (Chance- he was NOT fun when I first rode him but I enjoy riding him much more now that I know his buttons and he doesn’t feel like he’s going to fall over)


    1. Physical comfort is a good point. The BDP is hard for me because he’s so wide and it’s challenging to get my legs on. I also low-key feel like I might break my saddle if I put it on him one more time.


  2. Agree with Allison. If the horse is amiable, and honestly tries then it usually makes the ride fun. Also usually for me if the ride is less physically demanding it was more fun too. Not in the “I want to be a potato on a saddle” kind of way, but in a “I didn’t know I could contract every muscle in my body” kind of way. Ramone was a very physical ride and it made things less fun (though he tried and he also knew quite a bit there at the end). Carlos was more fun because you knew he was going to go, but he was mischievous so you were also on your toes and not totally complacent.


  3. Agree with all the above, demeanor/attitude is important. I don’t like horses that make me feel overwhelmed or nervous, or frustrated, whether its their ignoring me, forwardness, spookiness, etc. My horse Holly was appropriately sensitive (as in she listened, thought about and made decisions based on my input). She took a little leg and occasional bat, but you weren’t pony kicking her along. Enter my friend’s pony after she sold. He is super safe (too lazy to spook more than a step) but good grief my legs were dead by the end of a lesson, making me realize I do like some forward installed on my ride, something I didn’t think was true til him.


  4. I always have a tough time riding other people’s horses. Lately, I’ve been back riding a friend’s been there done that older gent because she is major preggo and can no longer touch her toes again.
    While it’s nice to be able to ride at my level again compared to my baby horse mission again, it just isn’t the same fun. The bond isn’t there….it’s tough

    Cute mare by the way!


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