by Christine Meunier
Below is an excerpt from the second book in the Free Rein series, In Pursuit of a Horse. The series details horse ownership and care for the younger rider.
“Jacqui looked at Hannah and Geordie’s excited faces, not sure what the current scene meant.
The girls had slept a bit later that morning, due to having tired themselves out from the two rides and the hot weather the day before. Jan had taken advantage of this by bringing in ponies for each of them to ride, and placing gear to the left of each pony.
Jacqui had commented after she’d brushed her pony that the saddles seemed to be missing. She could find the bridle she was supposed to put on but had paused from attempting to do so. She’d noticed the day before that Jan had put the saddle on first and then the bridle. Also, Jacqui wasn’t sure about all the straps and buckles on the bridle and how to put this correctly on a horse.
As soon as she mentioned the lack of saddles, Geordie had looked at Hannah excitedly before turning to Jan and asking if they were riding bareback.
“What’s bareback?” Jacqui had eventually asked after seeing Jan nod that they would be doing so.
“It means that you ride the horse without a saddle on. It’s back is bare,” Hannah explained, undoing the noseband on her pony’s head collar before putting the bridle on.
Jacqui watched her do this, trying to take it all in as she thought about the idea of riding without a saddle. How will I get on the horse? Won’t the trot be really bouncy? How will I rise without stirrups? Will I look silly?
So many questions flitted through her head as Jan came over to help her with the bridle. Jacqui followed Jan’s directions, smiling in triumph as she managed to put the bridle on by herself under Jan’s direction.
“I did it!”
“You did! So I guess you’ll be learning at least two new things today,” Jan commented with a smile.
Jacqui looked up at her in surprise.
“Well you just put a bridle on by yourself for the first time and now you’re going to ride bareback for the first time… am I right?”
Jacqui blushed and nodded her head.
“How will I get on?” she whispered so that Geordie and Hannah wouldn’t hear her.
“I promise I’ll help. I have a mounting block that all of you can use. It’ll mean that you’re standing on something higher. Plus, Matty here,” she patted the little bay pony that Jacqui would be riding, “he’s really short and that’ll help, too!”
Jacqui smiled. Hannah and Geordie announced that they were ready.
Under Jan’s instructions the three girls led their mounts by the reins of the bridle, standing at their shoulder on the left hand side. Jacqui made sure she kept a decent space between her pony and Hannah’s that was walking in front.
Jan had explained that some horses didn’t like it when others came up too close. If this happened, they might kick out to the other horse to warn it to stay away. Unfortunately for the person leading the horse, they might get kicked unintentionally!
When the three were in the arena again Jan had them line up side by side. She took the mounting block first to Geordie who stood on it and then slid herself onto her pony’s back as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Jacqui watched keenly as Hannah did the same. It looked easy!
Jan then brought the mounting block around to where Jacqui was standing at her pony’s shoulder. She placed it right beside Matty.
“Ok! Stand on that for me first. Then you can hold onto a bit of his mane at his wither there and put your right leg over his back. Be careful not to kick him.”
Jacqui followed her instructions, grinning proudly as she sat astride Matty without a saddle on. I did it!
Her elation quickly turned into concentration as Jan directed them all to walk their ponies around to the right. Jacqui was relieved to find that she didn’t immediately fall off. After she’d done a lap in each direction she started to relax.
“That’s better. Your pony will feel when you’re tense and wonder if there’s something he should be scared about too!” Jan commented as she walked beside Jacqui.
Jacqui looked to the older woman and smiled in wonder.
“They’re really that sensitive?”
“Oh yes! They can feel your emotions very strongly. The more relaxed and confident you are the more relaxed and confident they’ll be with you! Speaking of which, have you learnt how to do a sitting trot, Jacqui?”
The young blonde girl nodded.
“Good. When we trot bareback you don’t need to worry about rising to the trot. Just ride it as you would for a sitting trot. Does that sound ok?”
Jacqui thought this over and realised it made sense. After all, she didn’t have any stirrups! She nodded in response, patting Matty on the neck.
Once Jan was happy that the girls had walked their ponies in both directions and practised stopping and going, she announced that they were going to try out a trot bareback. All three grinned in excitement. Let the fun begin!”
If you enjoyed this excerpt, you may like to check out the Free Rein series by Christine Meunier at http://www.freereinseries.com/
Christine Meunier is an equine author and educator in Australia. She loves all things horses and dedicates her time to writing educational novels, horse courses and educational resources. Her greatest passion is Equus Education, a blog about 170+ horse careers around the world.
For more details about Christine’s work, check her out on our guest author list.