I got in touch with my inner Man From Snowy River the other day, by going horse riding.
Not sure why. Black Caviar possibly. More likely some primal urge to go “hey ya!” on a pony, I think.
As it turned out it was more “arrrrr” than “hey ya!” with a few “whoas” and “slow down, slow down” thrown in.
But more of that later.
When I say horse riding, it was actually more “horse sitting” because ‘‘riding’’ suggests there was someone else other than my horse, Lucy, in control that day.
As Wayne, our host from AAA Riding, nestled at the foothills of the Watagan Mountains near Cooranbong, explained prior to our session, you take it slow when you’re a beginner.
Mainly for medical reasons.
Horses are big, humans are soft and insurance claims are a real hassle to fill out after being dragged through the forest by a stirrup.
I needed no convincing.
My overriding plan as soon as I got up on Lucy, all 15 hands of her, was to not fall off. It remained the plan for the rest of the day.
They say it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock’n’roll. And it’s a long way to the bottom if you want to fall off a horse.
Lucy quickly outlined our arrangement once saddled up – she’d do what she wanted, I’d sit.
She seemed to know instinctively the sack on her back’s only previous riding experience had been on a merry-go-round at the local show.
So there’d be no Lone Ranger-type noises tolerated. Besides, when did the Lone Ranger ever call out for his mummy?
Uneducated types often argue horse riding is not a sport. But in my experience, there’s no doubt it is, mainly for the horse.
Lucy confirmed this approximately one minute into our ride by smudging me on every tree from the holding yard to the dam, where she promptly stopped for a drink.
While she slurped, young AAA volunteer Brad suggested I try pulling on the reins to assert authority.
Hah! Lucy promptly jerked on the reins to get down to the water and nearly flung me into the drink.
While I clambered back up her mane with great dignity Brad outlined the emotional relationships at work between the horses.
And let me say this, horse relationships are more complicated than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
JD loved Lucy, who had a thing for Meg, who was involved with Hercules, a depressed ex-trotter that could have been a contender, and if you let any one of these touchy egos overstep the emotional pecking order on the trail it could result in the worst-case scenario for a rookie – a trot.
Nothing threatens the rookie’s enjoyment of ‘‘horse sitting’’ as much as the unbridled terror of his steed in full trot.
And when it eventuated, as it did a number of times as we forged the picturesque tracks of the AAA spread, the dulcet tones of ‘‘slow down, slow down’’ were allegedly squealed by yours truly more than once.
I’m sure I was actually saying ‘‘hey ya!’’, but anyhow, all great fun ... for the horse. And spectators apparently.
And me too, I guess, but in retrospect any fantasies I had about breaking in the colt from old regret were turned on their head.
At the conclusion of our 90-minute ride the only regret I could safely verify was emanating from my arse.
Felt like I’d been branded for days afterwards.
Anyone else reckon horses treat humans as sport?