Horses have been in my life since my youth. My longest break from horses came when my three children were young. As soon as they were old enough to start riding, I was looking for horses that were safe enough for them to learn to ride. I remember putting Emily up on a horse and her feet couldn't reach the stirrups, but she stayed on and learned good balance, she was six years old. Our Jubilee was a great "babysitter" for my youngsters to learn on.
4-H was probably the biggest reason we began to ride Competitive Trail rides. It was a 4-H project that became totally out of control, much like other passions in my life. Ryan was twelve the year we joined the Trail Blazers 4-H club. We rode our first ride at the Caesarscreek Lake horse trails, it was a 20 mile ride and we had to do it in three and half hours, no more than four hours or you start loosing points. Horses are checked before the ride for soundness, half way through the ride and at the end of the ride. Points were deducted for any lameness, scratches, or high pulse and respiration's. The main objective was to take care of your horse, finish with a horse that could do it all again! Our kids learned so much responsibility by taking care of their horses.
The responsibility started long before that 20 mile ride at Caesarcreek. The horse needed to be conditioned months before the actual 20 mile ride, That meant riding at least three times a week for an hour or more. Horses had to be cared for every day. This is a year round project of responsibility, they learned to groom, clean the horses feet, they learned to keep their tack clean. They knew how to saddle and bridle their horse. If the girth wasn't tight enough it wouldn't stay on the horse, if the chin strap broke, their horse wouldn't stop. If blankets weren't clean it might rub a sore on the horses back. Everyday the horses needed to be fed and watered.
It wasn't all work..... we had so much fun riding across the country side, whooping it up, racing on wooded trails, jumping logs across the trail and even crossing water that was sometimes belly deep on our horse. We often climbed hills that looked like mountains and came back down again. We rode in rain, snow, oppressive heat and humidity. We got lost, we made lifelong friends, we camped in the back of pickup trucks, in a big old motor home and sometimes in tents. Our horses camped right beside us, we could hear them munching hay during the night, we could hear them knicker to one another, we could hear them spill a bucket of water and knew we should get up and get them another. We knew when the hay bags were empty because they started getting bored and getting into trouble with one another.
Campfires, creative cooking, getting up at 5am to start riding at 6am. Most ride mornings it was dark as we saddled our horse and began to warm up. Sometimes the fog would be so thick you couldn't see other rigs in the campgrounds. The energy in the air on ride morning was so contagious, from rider to rider, from horse to horse, from rider to horse. It was all thrilling and as I write this I remember the excitement and feel my adrenaline pumping......... Oh, the stories I have to tell...........