Kids, Horses, Pointy Things
- January 30, 2024
- Jan Swan Wood
When my two oldest grandboys were little, around six and five years old, they spent hours on end riding the two mares I had for them. Josie, the sorrel, was Carson’s, and was a roly poly old type Quarter Horse mare with a lack of burning ambition but enough patience to make up for it. Taygen’s horse, Stardust, was a small black mare of Quarter type, who was ancient but in good shape and who challenged her boy just enough to make him sit up and pay attention. She was also patient to a point, but would occasionally unload a boy. But those boys loved those mares dearly, as did I, and had so much fun with them.
To give them “jobs” to do when we didn’t have any real riding, I’d set up an obstacle course sort of deal with a marked trail and maneuvers to do at different places, like backing through some lines on the ground, or side passing to reach something on the fence. They had a blast doing this, though the mares were probably puzzled by it. I’d place water bottles in hard to reach spots so that they had to really use their feet and hands to get their horse to move into a position so that the boy could get a drink. Buckets were used to practice the correct patterns in barrels and poles, as they were participating in a playday series that summer.
So, every day when there wasn’t other riding or work to do, the boys would be horseback from breakfast to lunch, then a break to let the horses and humans eat and drink, then back to the horses they’d go. It didn’t matter how hot it got, they were out there riding. The mares weren’t being used hard, just steady, and were no worse for wear.
Each evening when it was time to unsaddle, the oldest boy, Carson, would ask if they could ride bareback for a while. He would crawl over onto Josie from the water tank cover and away he’d go. Little brother Taygen would need a little help as Stardust, the black hearted old snake, would step away and dump him on the ground just as he tried to crawl over onto her. But, with my help, he’d get on and away they’d go.
Carson thought this was the best deal ever and would trot Josie around and about, even breaking her into a lope occasionally. Taygen, on the other hand, stayed in a mosey, which wasn’t his usual pace. He would soon pull Stardust back to a walk if she broke into a trot.
One evening Taygen stopped near me and said he was done riding bareback. I was surprised, as it was cooler by evening and they just never wanted to quit. Carson tried to encourage him to keep riding, but Taygen was firm. He was done for the day.
As he slid off of her and dropped to the ground, I asked him if he was okay. He said he was, but that “Stardust has that pointy thing on her back and it hurts.” Yep. She sure did. Her withers, at her advanced age, were very defined and stood up tall and narrow like a shark’s fin. Josie, on the other hand, was absolutely round over the back and comfortable for Carson. I had them trade off after that so they could both enjoy riding bareback and also so Carson could appreciate why Taygen felt the way he did.
I personally like to have well defined “pointy things” on my saddle horses, but then, I’m not much of a bareback rider anymore either. Both boys have advanced on to different horses, but aren’t too keen on riding bareback due to the “pointy things” on those geldings. Good withers do need a saddle.
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....