California Riding Magazine • August, 2014

Horsey Humor:
Instruction in Open Terrain.

by Bob Goddard

While there are many equestrian disciplines and forms of horseback riding, there are only two kinds of riding lessons: Circle Lessons and Adventure Lessons. In a Circle Lesson, you ride around an arena and follow your instructions. In an Adventure Lesson, you ride down a trail and follow your instructor. Out there, the instructor takes on the role of narrator while Nature does the actual teaching.

We all know which one is more work and which one is more fun. So, when an instructor gives us a choice, it's out to the woods we go. At least that's what Paul, my new lesson colleague, and I chose when our instructor, Karin, left it up to us. Paul is taking lessons so that one day he can go riding in the Rockies. An Adventure Lesson fits his goals nicely. I just don't want to work. So, it fits my goals as well.

Besides - beeeeep goes the Additional Rationalization Alarm - in a state where every February people panic at the sight of the big yellow thing up in the sky because they forgot what it is, it only makes sense to take advantage of the nice weather while we still have it. There will be plenty of time in the long winter months to pay homage to the Indoor Deities of the Infinite Circle.

Of course, we've ridden the property of Legacy Stables before. Karin has taken us on the Grand Tour a few times and we are now well acquainted with all the wonders this twenty-eight acres can hold: The Field of Repetitive Dreams (the big corn field in back), marvelous Mt. Legacy (a left over pile of dirt next to where the arena got built) and, of course, the amazing Trees of Temptation (the apple orchard where the horses will take you if you don't steer them properly).

This time, Karin had something different in mind.

Into the Badlands

At the far corner of the cornfield, Karin cues her pony to the left instead of to the right. Right would have taken us around the cornfield and back to the safe and familiar barn area. Left takes us into the tall grass and toward the impassable line of large trees that border the property. We follow the mad woman because we trust.

As we breach the impassable line of large trees, I feel like a hobbit leaving The Shire. I turn to Paul on his little Quarter horse mare behind me: "Hang on tight and prepare for Trail Riding 201."

Paul's eyes light up and I shudder at the realization that he is as crazy as she is.

As we emerge on the other side of the trees there are just more trees. The tall grass gets taller and small branches whap us in the face as we duck the bigger ones. We're getting soaked from the dew on the plants. Thorny type vines beckon us to stay as they reach out and tear at our skin and clothes. I curse at their presumption.

"This is fun!" Paul chirps.

The horses show little concern with what's happening on the upper level. Footing is their primary concern. But Vinnie seems to have plenty of time to snatch a variety of leaves and field grass as we work our way through the brush.

I think it's time I say something:

"Karin. In order for it to be a trail ride, there has to be a trail."

She chuckles. Paul chuckles. And we press on.

We come upon a truly impassable area of underbrush. Karin halts and twists her body half way around in the saddle, "You guys have heard of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, right?"

Paul nods and grins. I nod and wonder where this is going.

"Well," Karin continues, "this is the wardrobe. Follow me!"

"Paul," I turn and cup my mouth with my right hand, "if she offers you any candy with foreign sounding names, tell her no!"

As Karin and her pony burst through the bocage, I half expect to hear Liam Neeson's voice blowing in the treetops: "Well done, Young One…"

Paul is urging me on from behind. "This is so cool! I could do this all day!"

I feel like I'm stuck between Lucy Pevensie and the Giant Rumblebuffin. I tell you what, if I see any of those freaky half-horse/half-man things on the other side, I have a bunch of questions.

We matriculate through "wardrobe" and sure enough, the other side is indeed very nice. Not Narnia nice, but what is? After a short, but sharp incline on a well-traveled path, we emerge on a plateau. From there we can see a neighboring horse farm. A short stroll takes us past well-kept buildings and fences. Ah, civilization.

Inquisitive equines approach the fence line and gaze as this curious Band of Wanderers as they disappear off the plateau and on to the end of their Adventure Lesson.

I think Paul will do just fine in the Rockies.