Freedom in the Saddle


Freedom in the Saddle

McKinley Chabot

The old truck rumbles over the tall, dusty hill. As you near the crest, views of fields and animals grazing come to life. Excitement rushes through your veins, and the vehicle begins to make the descent. As it shuts off in the small parking area, you get out, and get ready to get a little mud on your boots. 

After slamming the door, the first stop is the tack trunk, in the small, cool wing of the barn. There is where your helmet bag and brushing equipment lay, as well as the saddle that will soon sit on an animal weighing much more than you. Briskly, with a purpose, you walk into the main section of the barn, setting all objects down ever so gently. Making sure everything is in order, you walk out, take in a breath of the crisp, fresh air, and make the journey to the paddocks. 

Walking by the large, white farmhouse, your eyes are set on a particular steed. Tall, slightly thin, black and white, and one hundred percent willing. As your stomping gets nearer, he begins to notice, and turns his head and tilts big ears forward. You give him a smile, a small cue to confirm what is happening. 

Hands reach the metal gate. Grabbing the leather halter, they open the gate, and slide the halter carefully over the horse’s head. There is no fussing, and the horse walks out of the pasture willingly. To contradict his size, he walks slowly, calmly, but not entirely out of energy. After all, you are his first lesson of the day. 

The barn is not bustling since it is early. You are able to clip the horse in the middle of the aisle, on black cross ties. He stands, looks around, gives a small neigh, wondering where his friends are. But he calms almost instantly, enjoys the feel of the brush that you just put in your hand. Every so often, the gelding bobs his head up and down in approval. He, like you, is happy to be alive. 

Once the animal is clean, you put both saddle and riser pads on, in that order. After that comes the brown, leather saddle, sparkling as it was just shined. Your girth, white, fuzzy, is not as clean, but it is the only one that fits him. The tack might be a bit of a struggle to get on because of his height, but it is entirely worth it. The brown bridle, also leather, comes on next, and it replaces the halter. 

You walk out of the barn, leading the horse to the indoor arena. Again, you breathe in the fresh air, and take a look at the other horses far off, some looking at you. Strolling through the large, wide open door, you pull off to the side and make sure the girth is tightened. Afterwards, you walk over to the red, three step mounting block, ready to ride. 

Before mounting, you see long, red hair coming down from the farmhouse. It is your riding instructor, right on time as always. She shouts before coming inside, making sure there are no surprises for the large horse. She smiles, walks into the middle of the ring, and gives the alright for you to hop on. 

This horse can be impatient at moments, and he shows this by walking as soon as you get on. You quickly put your feet in the shiny stirrups, and tighten the worn out reins. Posture is key, and you get in position immediately. You start with a walk, for a lap or two, but Rocky is excited. He tosses his head, and your instructor gives you the okay to trot him. 

He starts off fast, at almost an extended trot, but quickly settles into your hands and the bridle. The horse’s head goes down, and he focuses. You begin to post, making sure you’re on the correct diagonal. You are, and this brings a small smile to your face. Progress is being made. 

After critique’s and tips from your riding instructor, you feel that it’s time to ask for the canter. Rocky in particular loves this faster gait, and is eager to jump into it. The riding instructor, and also owner of Rocky, will tell you to poke him with the outside leg and give him the inside rein. You do, and the thrill comes to life. 

The horse quickly speeds up, and you sit in the saddle confidently. With the wind in your hair, you smile, radiating freedom and happiness. The ride is a little bumpy, but ever so enjoyable. A pole is down, and you steer Rocky towards it. He leaps over it, sure of his stride, and you are jolted forward. By the time you finally let him slow again, Rocky is sweaty and more tired. 

Cantering is done in the other direction as well. After that, the instructor tells you that this is the end of the ride. However, to cool the horse down, you are allowed to walk him around the farm. This makes you happy. Both you and Rocky like taking in the scenery. Walking out the door, Rocky tosses his head. He sees his friends again. 

Passing the white farmhouse, you let Rocky stop at an apple tree to grab a snack. He munches away, and the nice cool breeze blows in again. Waiting for the horse to finish, you turn around, and stare up the hill you came over earlier. Mountains are also visible from this position, everything around you is a truly peaceful sight. As Rocky begins to walk forward, you pet him, still looking around. A horse, a rider, beauty all around you. This is why you do what you do.