Rider to Rider: What’s Your Fondest Riding Memory?

Practical Horseman readers reminisce over the rides they'll never forget.

My fondest memory is “the perfect triple.” My first horse, Pokey, and I had been taking lessons; polishing our equitation and beginning to jump. We learned to handle small rails, oxers and combinations. We were both pretty green. My instructor liked combinations and her mantra for dealing with them was “stay forward!” As our last jump in what had been a great lesson, Pokey and I cantered around the ring one more time and met that triple…perfectly. My crest release was just right and my position was… forward. I felt three smooth-as-silk efforts as my horse and I flowed through the combination. Thirty-four years later I can still feel it.
Christine Engel, Connecticut


I was 7 years, old, and my late father and mother finally let me go for a trail ride. I can remember smiling so much my cheeks hurt. Since then, horses have been in my life. Now when I go home after a long day, I look out to see my horses grazing in my backyard. and I think of my mom and dad. I am so grateful for this amazing journey I had have with horses in my life, and because of them!
Elisabeth Hernandez, Florida

I took English riding lessons the summer I was 8 years old, and I was lucky enough to own a horse and grateful to my parents for buying me one at age 14. I did not have a trainer. I devoured horse books to learn all I could. One of my favorites was Horse Fever by Pat Johnson. My fondest riding memory was when I was 15-years-old and riding my horse in my first horse show; the class was a bareback equitation class in a local show. I knew my horse, Caliber, did not want to take the left lead. None of the books I read covered a problem like that, so I had written to Mary Twelveponies for advice on what to do. I was hoping I would not have a problem in the class, but sure enough on the reverse canter, when I asked for the correct lead, my horse took the wrong lead. What to do? I knew it was wrong. I wanted to show the judge that I could correct it: so as smoothly as I could, I brought my horse back to trot, and asked again, more firmly and sort of threw my weight onto the correct shoulder and he did it! We finished the canter properly and lined up. While we waited in a line for the results of the class, my heart sank as my number was not called for any ribbon. I was disappointed but patted my horse’s withers. We had tried but failed. As I exited the arena, there were two girls who had watched the class from the rail. As I rode by them to the gate, one of the girls said to her friend, “I wish I could ride like her!” I realized she meant me! I’m so glad I overheard that remark because even though I didn’t win a ribbon that day, I had tried my best and that is the important life lesson.
Ann Ravnsborg, Washington

I believe my favorite memory of riding was sitting atop a humongous Belgian-Cob mix. I was only 4!
Claire Pida, California
The greatest riding time of my life was also one of the top greatest times of any type in my life. I had just purchased an OTTB from River Downs in Cincinnati and only had him a month. I didn’t even ride him before I bought him, I just liked that look of eagles he had about him. He seemed quiet enough but when a trail ride was planned for everyone at the barn where we boarded for along the scenic Little Miami River, while I worried if he would be ready, I also was dying to go. You see, we knew the property, which bordered historic Peters Powder Factory in Kings Mills, OH, had been sold. Land was disappearing at an alarming rate in Warren County and there seemed no end in sight. This would be the last (and only time for me) to see this marvelous property. My friends convinced me they would “surround” me with their seasoned, older horses and most of the people going had very quiet, experienced trail horses. I just couldn’t resist. We used 4 large trailers and piled everyone, tack and horses in and trailered the short distance to the woman’s farm, which was only to be in her name for a short time. It was October 1988 or 1989, 72 degrees and sunny, with perfect fall color. I was with my very best friends, on my new horse in a truly fabulous setting. You could see the mule trails from the mules pulling the gunpowder to storage bunkers through the dense forest. The cement bunkers where the volatile gunpowder was stored were still there, looking like very unfriendly cross-country jumps in the woods. At one point, we saw the backside of “The Beast”, a huge roller coaster located in Kings Island, an amusement park bordering the woods. This was as lovely an area as you were ever going to see, with magical woods, crunchy leaves as soft footing and the Little Miami River flowing right through it. We crossed the river 3 times, with only one time being an issue for Solo, my new horse, who quickly decided it was better to get wet up to his sides than be left alone on the bank. Solo was flawless from then on out, and he secured my lifelong love of thoroughbreds by his acceptance and willingness to step up to the challenge of all the new things he was asked to do that day. He came to me having 52 starts and being only 5 years old, went on to compete successfully at dressage through second level, then jumped around hunter courses with 12 year old girls on his back until he became a trail horse again. I could never duplicate that ride or that day or the feeling of camaraderie of my friends and fellow riders helping me with my new horse. And the greatest gift was this young thoroughbred, enjoying a day in the woods like he’d done it all before!
June Scholl, via Facebook
My fondest riding memory is not all the shows I competed in with my mare, but the hours and miles we covered out of the arena. I miss the shows, but as we’ve both aged I find I miss our quiet times together. Trail rides through the woods and fields, swimming in the rivers and along the beaches, bareback around the tobacco barns and fields in the fall, and getting lost among the miles of greenery and color. We proved ourselves in the show ring, but we bonded outside of the arena through every season. I’m proud of our wall of ribbons, but I really miss all the other rides that made those wins possible.
Shannon Long-Lehman, via Facebook
As a horse-crazy little girl, I idolized Roy Rogers and dreamed about riding a golden Palomino like Trigger. Then came the magic day! My father said I could have riding lessons on a real horse. The “stable” was at the top of a rocky hill laden with spruce meadows. The barn was a long shed consisting of tie stalls. Occupying each was a bay horse. Overhead were signs denoting their names – Lucky, Linda, Lucy?all L’s – no Trigger. My instructor was a retired RCMP officer?a real life “Mountie”?almost as good as meeting Roy! A little bay mare, tacked up in a McClellan saddle was to be my mount. Her name was Lucy. My teacher, now hero, ponied me through the grasses and evergreens, scaring up many yellow goldfinches along the way. We walked, we jogged, we trotted and after a few bumps I learned to post! It felt awesome. Now 60 years later, I can still relive that ride and still smell the scent of the spruces and inhale the sharpness of the crisp Northern air that sunny day. However most of all, I can still feel the sense of euphoria that Lucy gave me on that first ride.
Mary Benson, New York This fall we had a fun day at my barn to relax after the show season. We all had to dress up; my horse and I dressed up as clowns. Masta wore a huge tie, socks, feathers on his hooves and a clown wig; he looked like quite the character. After the costume portion was done, we moved on to gaming. Since barrel racing, pole bending, and keyhole aren’t usually in a dressage test, I was a little nervous. In the end I was happy I got out of my comfort zone and tried something new. Masta and I both enjoyed it, especially Masta as he ran through the events with his tail held high.
Amy Penaskovic, Washington I have a lot of memories on horseback, from trail riding with my mom, brother and best friend to getting a compliment on how well I rode bareback from a world champion cutter. But the fondest memory I have was when I finally understood how much pressure to apply to have the horse bend in a circle. I am very new to the sport of dressage with hopes of eventing someday. The concept of pressure from the inside rein to the outside leg was completely foreign to me. One day I was out riding in a bean field when I noticed that my horse and I were trotting in a perfect circle, with just enough pressure. I was so thrilled, I about got off my horse and kissed him!
Leslie Swanson, Wisconsin My fondest riding memory was a late afternoon at a rental stable when I was about 20 years old. It was a cool fall afternoon and I’d been waiting for hours to get a ride. This would be my first since taking a few lessons as a young child. I was given a chestnut-and-white Paint named Charlie and went out with the group. I bounced around on that poor horse’s back as we trotted along until he finally got tired of it and broke into a smooth lope. The world changed. I’d never cantered before, and the rocking-horse motion was a revelation. The cool air, just before sunset, blew across my face and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was hooked. I ended up owning horses and working on the board of the local hunter/jumper association. Because of life pressures, I gave up riding about 30 years ago and here I am, at almost 70, starting to ride again. I may need a mounting block and help to mount, but once I’m on a horse, I’m in heaven again.
Morva Ory, Louisana I was in the hillside of Willamette Valley Oregon. A devoted and structured young rider, one day our trainer barked at us girls to give our horses a break. So off we went winding up the mountain making our own trail until we landed ourselves in a farmer’s cherry orchard. As naughty as it was, we helped ourselves to his crop. As time progressed, the trail to our new secret spot became more prominent, and we learned to ride larger horses to get the really good cherries on top. Of course our farmer friend noticed that his crop was getting smaller, and the horseshoe prints were a dead giveaway. One day we went up for a midday snack after a hard jump lesson, and to our surprise our farmer friend was waiting with his gun. A few friendly shots were fired in the air sent us two giggling girls galloping down a hill and barely missing tree branches while we went about our carefree ways. There were no heels down, shoulders back; it was pure guts and glory.
Stacie Howard, Texas I had ridden hunters once upon a time, but it had been 22 years. Now here I was in a lesson with a trainer fresh from the mainland. “I want you to tie your reins in a knot and put your hands out like an airplane as you go through the grid,” she blithely instructed. I had done this decades before as a girl at Foxfield in Thousand Oaks, California. As we trotted into the grid, I stretched my arms out, the tradewinds singing in my ears as Pride lifted off the ground. His black mane blew back as he leapt. I stayed with him. After we cleared the oxer, I was so overjoyed I couldn’t stop laughing. I leaned down hugging his neck. “Now I want you to put your arms out like an airplane, and close your eyes,” the trainer called out to me, pushing me, daring me to reach further. “Feel it. If you can.” With my eyes closed, I dropped the knotted reins just as we entered the grid. We flew. Just for those few seconds, but it was enough. I will never forget the sensation.
S.A. Knox, Hawaii
Read more answers to this question in the June 2012 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. To view and answer the current question, visit www.PracticalHorsemanMag.com.

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