Riding in Water

Living as far inland as I do, it’s been my dream for years to ride on the beach. My grandparents live only 1km from the shore but are sadly horseless, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to daydream but very little opportunity to do it (except for once about two years ago when my grandma, tired of my complaints, flagged down a hapless horseman on the beach and ordered him to give me a ride).

This year, I was adamant. 10 days without riding? I’d be dead by Friday! My parents graciously relented and booked me a beach ride with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures on Saturday.

On the way to the horse paddocks, I was instantly transformed into my hyper 5-year-old self from years ago, nearly incontinent with excitement over a weekly lesson. Pathetic, I know. But I love my job to the point of needing it; it has always been more than a hobby and it is now becoming more than a career. When I sit on a horse I feel God’s pleasure, and I can’t help but feel that it’s a calling. I am called above all to love everyone; but I am also called to ride.

Being an hour early (my parents might have strangled me if we had to wait any longer) I got to meet the horses while they were being fed and groomed. I was impressed; they were lean and fit, but sleek and obviously well looked after. There were about sixteen horses of all shapes and sizes and had good manners with one or two exceptions. I wasn’t awfully surprised when I was assigned the shortest horse on the place. Judging by his teeth and the sprinkling of grey hairs on his otherwise dark bay body, I estimated Tutu (named for his brand, 225) to be close to twenty. He couldn’t have been taller than 14.1hh. Being tiny, I always end up with the littlest, oldest horses, which generally turn out to be extremely fiery once they realise they’re not carting a newb around. He was a handsome little dude with the remnants of splendour in his neat little ears, curving neck and powerful hindquarters. I have a suspicion that he was an old Lipizzaner, rejected from performing because of his size; he had the right build, and he had the right kind of brand. I was pleased to ride him.


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We were a big group of 13 people with varying experience; I was a little worried about one or two of the riders who looked a bit newbie, but the horses all set off in an obedient line and newbs or no newbs we were soon navigating a winding deer trail up and down the hills at a brisk trot. (Best way to squeeze in a canter on an outride: Ride the shortest horse. Tutu had several little canters to keep up). Before long we were marching down a steep slope and onto the beach. It was a wonderful, warm day with a perfect salty breeze sweeping in over the sea, and the smells of horse and ocean mingled in the air.

To my surprise we walked over a short stretch of beach and then swung right, straight into the lagoon. I thought the leader had lost her mind. How were we supposed to get 13 horses to walk through belly-deep water? I needn’t have worried. The leading horse, a handsome skewbald gelding, splashed in without hesitation and the only problem we had was one or two attempts to roll. Well, I had the problem of being on a tiny horse, necessitating some quick gymnastic moves to avoid getting my boots wet. Tutu marched gamely right through the lagoon and we scrambled out onto the bank and into Morgan Bay village without incident.

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Soon we found ourselves trotting down the quiet roads of the idyllic little village, filled with beautiful houses and white picket fences and small children that squealed in delight as we came past with the horses’ hooves ringing down the street. Tutu’s bouncy, exuberant, elevated stride (more evidence to the Lipizzaner theory?) had me posting in the Western saddle; I could probably have sat, with a little effort, but I was much too busy enjoying myself. We had our first canter up one of the hills and the horses remained in an orderly line with little Tutu snorting with excitement as we charged along, and somewhere around that point I reached a state of total bliss.

A steady trek up and down some hills and through a few fields full of cattle brought us to an utterly dazzling clifftops. I’d never really seen cliffs in real life before, let alone stood on one, let alone on horseback at the edge of the sea with the rippling ocean spreading out in all directions; the biggest thing I’d ever seen, and the most perfect royal blue. It was a little breathtaking, and a little scary, and utterly beautiful. It was only a small piece of the ocean, which is only a small piece of the Earth, which is only a small piece of the universe, which is only a small piece of creation, which is all held cupped in the palm of our mighty, mighty creator God. I could have cried at the amazingness of it all; of the horse between my knees and the grass and the sea and the sky and my wonderful King. Praise the Lord!

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After gazing out at the sea and taking photos for a few minutes, we turned and rode back down along the clifftops. The sea battered against the rock with awe-inspiring power; spray clawed at the cliffs, then fell back in reluctant slow motion. It was enough to make me a little dizzy. Tutu, oblivious to the splendour, trotted after his herdmates in stoic obedience; he really was an awesome little horse.

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Back through Morgan Bay village, we turned off the road and started a hair-raising scramble across a seriously rocky beach. Like, no sand at all, just rocks – smooth loose rocks that tumbled treacherously under Tutu’s hooves. I knew that he didn’t want to fall any more than I did, so I just sort of threw the reins at him and tried to stay as balanced as I possibly could. Without hesitating, the little guy put down his nose and expertly picked his way onto the safer sand.

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We splashed through the shallow waves with Tutu giving the white foam the hairy eyeball before we came to a halt and the leader asked, “Who’s up for a gallop?” I may or may not have almost dislocated my arm throwing my hand up. A gallop on the beach?! Are you kidding?! Tutu was just as excited; he tossed up his noble old head and I felt all his muscles bunch under me. Leading one rider to look after the newbs, we gathered into a bunch and then we were off. Tutu was gentlemanly enough to wait for my signal; I clapped my calves into him and he took off like a shot without bothering with formalities such as trotting.

Lord, how amazing You made the wondrous world so that horse and man can fly together. I remember the splash and slap of Tutu’s hooves and the smell of him and the pumping of his neck and the churning mass of hooves and tails in front of us (we were left behind a little, but he was still running flat-out). It was terrifying, and it was ecstasy. One big grey had a bit of a moment and did a jump/kick/buck in our direction but Tutu rescued us by doing a funky sideways move involving a couple of tempi changes and a weird little hop. Way too soon, we were pulling up with panting horses everywhere and people wearing that slightly wild-eyed, white-faced grin you get after riding too fast.

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The walk home was pleasant in the happy sunshine and Tutu was still as game as ever, although a bit tired by now. I was ready to go home to my own Horde and the wide open veld, but the beach ride is a definite bucket list item. If you haven’t yet, do. Don’t fall on the wet sand, whatever you do, but the wonderful place between sand and sea and horse and sky is well worth visiting.

4MNM Blog Hop: Songs in Flesh and Blood

I know, I know, I’ve done too many hops and stuff this week. But a) they’re super fun and b) I haven’t been on a horse since Friday, so take it or leave it.
Four Mares No Money’s Alyssa started this one and something similar has been stewing in my head for ages. She asks us to write about what songs suit our horses.
I am 17. Hence, I listen to music obsessively. My horses are all used to the bellowing crescendo of Skillet exploding in the air around them while I feed, groom and sing along (very badly). It didn’t take me long to pick songs for them. Horses are basically songs in flesh and blood anyway. As always, in alphabetical order:

Arwen: “Genoeg is Genoeg“, Joe Niemand

Bear with me: the song is in Afrikaans but its message is universal. Firstly, the music fits her attitude and even her stride so well that I’ll need to ride a freestyle to it someday.
The title translates to “Enough is Enough”, and I’ll roughly translate the chorus for you:

Enough is enough
Hear my cry
Lord, I’m done
With taking it lying down
Stand up for me and all Your children, Lord
Enough is enough
Of this nonsense
My house and I stand together
This far and not one step further

It fits Arwen’s brisk determination and is one of my favourites ever.

Magic: “It’s Magic“, The Parlotones

I listened to this song over and over when I’d just started leasing him. “Follow, follow, follow us up to the pie in the sky” would ring in my head when I rode his sky-touching jump. The lyrics fit, and the lively melody fit him too. I almost made his show name It’s Magic but wanted to incorporate the “fly” of his racing name, Gadsfly.

Skye: “Brave“, Josh Groban

Courage has always struck me as the greatest of Skye’s attributes. Also a dear favourite, “Brave” is a song that’s long inspired me, just like her. They suit each other, and Groban has a voice you could gild statues with.

Thunder: “Your Song“, Elton John

Yes, I am old enough to know this song. It’s hard for me to pick a song that captures both Thunder’s loyalty and his happy innocence, but the bubbling sweetness and bashful sincerity of this song comes pretty close. If he was human this would totally be Thun’s love letter.

10 More Questions!

So because I’m still horselessly holidaying and the Horde is chilling at home (praise the Lord, Magic is looking better and seems to be on the road to recovery, God willing) you guys get to read some more questions. Sorry. Cool wrap-up on my first real beach ride (squee!) comin right up as soon as I actually go on it.
This idea comes from Chasing the Dream.
1. If your horse was a person, who would they be? (you can generalize personality if you can’t think of someone).
Arwen would be one of those really businesslike young women you find in offices; you know, the clipboard-wielding, pencil-skirt-wearing type.
Magic would be the character that’s always my favourite in an adventure novel: the friendly, sensitive and selfless one whose only fault is his apparent cowardice, the one who cries after battles, who in the end saves everyone after a key event reveals his inner great courage.
Skye is Queen Boadicea: fearless, fiery and defiant of anything that thinks it can conquer her, but a loving mother for all her ferocious protectiveness.
As for Thunder, he’s every girl’s dream guy. Tall and handsome with smooth black hair that falls irresistibly over his eyes, he’ll adore you forever, has impeccable manners and agrees with everything you say.

2. What is one (or two…or five) piece(s) of equipment you CANNOT live without.
Hmm. Probably my helmet, because I may quite literally not be living without it. I’m very attached to Arwen’s wonderful Kent and Masters saddle as well.

3. When did you start riding/ what discipline?
I was four and my chosen discipline was Not Falling Off. Seriously though, I spent the next several years just riding out and staying on with variable success.

4. Do you have a barn dog? If so, what breed?
I am followed everywhere by two German shepherds and two Jack Russels. The shepherds, Cyclone and Blizzard, are the canine equivalents of the angel and demon on Kronk’s shoulders in The Emperor’s New Groove. The Jackies, Yip and Yap, live to run and be snuggled.

5. Do you like doing stalls or nah?
I don’t have stables, but when I do have to muck out I really enjoy it. It’s so satisfying.

6. What treat(s) does your horse go nuts over?
Carrots – it’s all they get, except for apples for special treats, which they adore. Better for them and for my wallet than cookies.

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Carrots for cows too!

7. If you’ve switched disciplines, why? If not, also why?
I used to want to be a showjumper, but then I rode my first cross-country course. I’m now desperately hooked on eventing, but I’ll ride anything. I also switched Thunder from dressage to Western because it was more chilled and suitable for a pleasure horse.

8. What is your least favorite discipline and why (yeah, I aint afraid to be scandalous)?
Saddle seat, but only because I don’t understand it. It’s not very pretty in my eyes and I’m not terribly fond of the amount of gadgets used.

9. Who is currently your favorite rider?
The Horse Mutterer; among famous people, easily Charlotte Dujardin. Have you ever seen a position that perfect or a dressage horse that exuberant?

10. What is your BIGGEST pet peeve regarding horses?
The way their people treat each other. So much emphasis has been laid on the love, respect and understanding of the horse, which is amazing, that I know we can love, respect and understand each other even better. There’s no need for us to be down on one another and while I have come across many supportive and loving horse communities, I have to admit that our reputation as stuck up horse people is in many cases well earned.

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Random horsy prettiness

Of Grey Hairs and Horses

One thing that will always be true about horses is that you can do everything right, but things will still go wrong.
I always feel pretty bad about ditching my horses to go on holiday. Of course I leave them in the capable hands of the cattlemen masquerading as grooms, who have been nagged to death about all the little things they need to do (“Don’t forget to give Skye her pills. You will remember to wet their hay, won’t you?”). Just before leaving I also covered them in poison and repellents for pretty much anything that buzzes, crawls or sucks blood, with the possible exception of vampires (I believe Skye in a temper would be more than a match).
Alas, it only takes one tick to transmit a disease and the unlucky recipient thereof was as always Magic. My heart stood dead still for a few moments when the groom informed us that he looked colicky and didn’t finish his supper. The poor groom was told about fifty times to walk him  and not let him roll, which he faithfully did while the vet rushed out and I prayed.
Walking, vet and God have worked their magic and this morning Magic is standing around and eating. Praise the Lord!
I do suspect I have a couple of grey hairs now. Much as I try not to treat my horses like anything except horses, in my heart they’re still more or less my fluffy kids and it sucked to know that my poor Magic was feeling ill and I wasn’t there to treat him and comfort him. Thanks to good grooms, good vets and above all the good Lord, he looks like he’ll be fine.
He still remains in my prayers today.