Learning to Ride

I was thinking today of who taught me how to ride.   It took me a while.  It’s been a quite a few sunsets since my first time on a horse.  I’ve been riding since I was a baby, you see.  Yep, I’m still riding and still remembering.  I grew up on a family ranch.  They were ropers, horse trainers, and auctioneers, whatever it took to make a living and still keep the farm going.   

I remember my cousin, Sandy, hoisting me up on a Gambler while she would clean out the stalls and feed.  I was as happy as a bowl of peaches playing with that gentle giant’s mane.  If I was on a horse, I was smiling.  I have the pictures to prove it.  Sandy helped me get my hands right.  She would gather the reins up and give them to me, wrapping her hand over mine she would say, “Alright now honey, you hold on tight.  If she starts to get away from you, pull back gently and sit down hard in your seat.”  She would long line me for hours.

My next memory was of my proud Irish Grandfather.   The image is burned into my brain like the bar-four brand on his horse’s left flank.  He wore a crisp white western shirt with stripes of blue flowers.  It was the kind of western shirt that had pearl colored snaps, not buttons.  He topped the look off with a grey Stetson hat, his signature look.  I remember glancing up at his big dappled horse thinking my Grandpa, the movie star. 

As I watched the sway of his body, the big horse shifting from one side to the other, I decided I was going to ride just like him.  He was my hero after all.  So, I sat deep in my saddle, arched my back slightly, and held my reins in my left hand.  I let my right arm relax down to the saddle skirt.  The fingers brushing against the saddle strings while my little pony sauntered along behind Grandpa.  I was Grandpa’s little darling.  He taught me how to relax and enjoy the ride.  His presence could make a horse calm. 

I remember the beautiful buckskin my Dad would ride.  The hip on that horse, wow.  He looked so graceful when he swung up, always winking at me as he would settle into the saddle.  I loved him so.  My Dad, the cowboy.  I was always so proud when he would let me swing up behind him.  He’d grab me by the arm and say, “Ready?”  Then, I would push off the ground with all my might and snuggle into the cantle.  My little fingers couldn’t touch when I would wrap my little arms around him.  My little face pressed against his back.  He was my ridding buddy then and will be always.  Though now, he rides with me in my heart. 

Then there was Granny.  Oh how she taught me everything, from how to groom a horse to remedies for sweet itch.  One particular time, she yelled out to me from the porch, “Roberta, what the hell are you doing?  You’re going to run that pony to death.”  The wind was blowing and I was running.  I was running that Shetland pony as fast as I could get her to go.  I hollered back, “Granny, we’ll be alright. I’m catching the wind…I’m catching the wind.”  That was my life for a while.  Waking up, eating, getting my pony, begging someone to saddle her (if not, was a bareback day again), and catching the wind every day.

So, who taught me how to ride?  My family, my ponies, my horses, and the wind.   God bless them all.  And for those of you out there who have taken on the cause to train young ones to ride, well, bless you too.  You see, these are just a few of the memories of a 39 year old woman who loves horses.  A woman whose love for horses has grown into a lifetime of fulfilling friendships with folks from all over the world, all with one thing in common; someone had taught them to ride.

This is dedicated to my wonderful family and to all those out there passing on the love of horses to the little ones.    

by Roberta Beene