#PickUp: Horse riding
It is every horse's nightmare to have a screaming little girl as an equestrian.
Equestrian sports are often considered among the most extravagant sports that only a privileged few can afford. You can thus imagine my excitement when I was given a shot to learn horse riding at Gallop Stable for our #PickUp series.
Before commencing the 30-minute class, I had to sign an indemnity form. Paranoia kicked in as I thought of all the endless possibilities of how the horse could harm me (you know, like biting my arm, chewing my hair, or worse, toppling on me).
My heart thumped so fast when I entered the stable that housed 44 horses, especially when I made eye contact with my horse, Best Man. As the magnificent beast towered over my petite frame, I suddenly started reciting all the prayers I knew until I summoned enough courage to mutter a nervous “hello, horsey” to Best Man and awkwardly pat its mane.
Like a small child, I made several nightmarish mistakes throughout the session. Here are some things beginners should avoid:
1. Screaming and being scared of the horse
Horses are herbivores and are scared of loud, sudden noises. When I lost balance while mounting, I let out a scream and the shocked horse moved a little. I was incredibly lucky I didn’t fall or irritate the horse.
As a rider, one should give confidence to the horse by walking by its side and into its space when leading the horse to the ranch. The horse can sense when you are nervous or scared.
2. Holding the reins of the horse wrongly
Keep in mind that you are riding a horse, not a carriage! Instead of grabbing the reins like grabbing bicycle handles, you should hold it as you would a PS4 game console.
3. Slouching instead of sitting upright
I kept leaning forward and slouching when riding the horse. However, a good riding position is when you can join an imaginary straight line through your ear, shoulder, hip and heel.
As beginners, we naturally sit with our knees pointed outwards, but the correct position is to keep our legs inward. I also had to learn to press my heels down on the stirrups such that my toes point upwards.
4. Not communicating properly with the horse
Don’t ask me why, but as I was riding the horse, I ended up meowing. Maybe I was just nervous.
Body language is important. The horse knows where you are looking at and will instinctively lead you there. To manoeuvre the horse, simply loosen and gently tug the reins on the side you want to turn.
Horses respond to two universal verbal cues: the clicking of the tongue to start moving and saying “woo” to stop.
If the horse does not respond to the sounds, you can nudge it by gently squeezing the horse with your legs. Remember to reward the horse for being obedient by loosening your grip on the reins.
To wrap up, my horse-riding experience was very pleasant despite it being a short 30 minute session. I was impressed with Coach Edric’s professionalism, putting me at ease from the start till the end. He was also generous in giving compliments when I made progress, and also to Best Man when it listened to instructions.
After dismounting from the horse and heading back to the stable, I felt a special emotional bond with Best Man. I really hope to be able to ride again!
This is part 3/4 of our #PickUp series. Stay tuned for the next episode!