Friday, January 9, 2009

To Share or Not to Share (Your Horse)

I know, I know. This photo could use a little PhotoShopping with that metal post hat behind Gabbrielle's head and the junk pile in the background. This is a photo from this past summer taken with my old camera. I had to upload something visual. It was just too cold to be outside snapping off pictures this morning. For those of you who wanted to see pictures with my new camera, the last four posts that contained pictures of my horses had photos that were taken with the new camera.

I thought I would write a post about experiences I had regarding other people asking if they can ride my horses. I know where they are coming from, because before I had horses, I was always asking my husband if one of his coworkers who owned horses would let me go to her house and ride them. Understandably, we never got a straight answer out of her.

So, here I was many years later in the same position that I put that woman in when asking to ride her horses: I had my own horses, and suddenly people were asking if they could ride mine. My husband said it was too risky to let someone else ride our horses. Our health insurance doesn't cover other people and if someone got hurt, we could get sued. We would have to ask them to sign a liability release and go over all the dangers of horseback riding. We don't let other people drive our cars, because our car insurance doesn't cover anyone but our family members, so why would we let someone ride our horses?

That all made sense to me, but I really wanted someone to ride with. My local horse friends consisted of a older woman who breeds, but hasn't ridden in years, a show horse trainer who works 7 days a week and is always on the road, my vet, and my farrier. In one case, a woman who had been asking me for a ride managed to talk another one of her neighbor's into it, and it turned into quite the disaster. This woman forgot to mention that she didn't know how to ride. The horse spooked and bolted, and the woman reacted by squeezing her legs around the horse's barrel, thus making it go faster. Fortunately, she did not fall off, but the experience frightened her enough that she never wanted to ride another horse again.

In another case, I had stupidly promised a new friend, who was from another country and had no experience with horses, that I would take her on a pony ride, meaning she could sit on my horse while I led it around the round pen. I thought that would be safe enough. However, my husband wasn't even willing to let that happen, so I arranged for my friend and I to meet at a horse stable and take a half-day ride together. She brought her husband along, and I explained to him why I had to change our plans. He said that his uncle owns a working horse ranch and even his own uncle won't let him ride the horses without signing a liability release. So, fortunately, this new friend and her husband totally understood.

One day a coworker approached me and asked if his wife could ride my horses. I explained that my horses are not fully broke like stable horses. Because I work full-time I can't put as much training into them as I should, and they can get a bit wild. They really need intermediate to advanced riders. He returned a few days later and said that his wife wants to come work for me in exchange for riding my horses. She would clean stalls or do whatever odd jobs needed to get done.

I didn't think that either of them understood my hesitation, so I told the man, who used to be a paramedic, about all the injuries I have suffered over the years from working with horses. I explained that you don't even have to be on a horse's back to get hurt. It's not a matter of IF his wife gets hurt, but a matter of WHEN. He said he and his wife understood and that was okay with them. I said that they both would have to sign a liability release. Again, he said that was fine.

A few days later the man returned to me and asked what kind of riding trails I have around my place. I cringed. Trails? I don't have no stinkin' trails. I explained that I only ride my horses in arenas, because they haven't been trained yet to withstand the surprises a horse would find out on the trails. I realized that this woman had an image in her head of riding off into the sunset by herself. I had to nip that in the bud.

I told the man that she would have to take lessons from me in the round pen for a while before I could let her ride alone in an arena, and I couldn't let her ride on the trails by herself at all. If something spooked my horse, she could get thrown and seriously injured or killed, and I could lose my horse. I also wanted to make sure that she understood HOW to ride each of my horses. I've spent years determining the most successful cues to use with each horse, and I didn't want another rider confusing them.

The man went home and talked to his wife, and I never heard another thing about it. She obviously wasn't willing to be mentored. She simply wanted to clean some stalls, jump on the back of a horse, and gallop through the daisies with her hair streaming behind her like in the movies. Sorry folks, horses aren't that simple. You might want to invest in a convertible for that kind of ride.

To this day the only people who have ridden my horses include myself, my kids (who let me teach them), and my trainers. I think I'm going to keep it that way, unless I happen to make friends with someone who has owned and ridden horses his or her whole life, someone who understands the intricacies of horse training and riding, and someone who has experienced the risks firsthand. It's easy to say that you are fine with the risks if you haven't been laid up in a hospital from a horse injury. However, I'm more inclined to believe in someone who keeps riding despite the pain and long recoveries.


dp said...

I will give pony rides to friends who have limited horse experience. I will go riding with people who have been riding for years and, even then, I ride Raven because she is an accident waiting to happen and she is simply NOT comfortable with new people. I think you and your husband are very wise to take this stance.

OnTheBit said...

well the good thing about Gennyral was that most everyone but my trainer and myself were afraid to ride him. I just did a post about having your friends ride today...I think putting it off is the best policy.

Lulu said...

I have to giggle!!! I won't let others ride my horses because I'm afraid of what will happen to the horse, not the rider! LOL

Jenn said...

I have to absolutely agree with your reasoning. I am constantly having co-workers ask me if they can come out and go riding, my husband has even had his co-workers ask him if they can come out and ride my horses.

My answer is always "My horses aren't a merry-go-round and they don't give pony rides, I'm sorry." Then I suggest the barn where my daughter takes lessons and tell them if they take a year's worth of lessons I'd be willing to reconsider the request.

However, I will lead kids around on my daughter's old man as long as the parents are willing to sign a waiver and the kid has to be appropriately dressed and helmeted.

I let my horsie friends ride my horses and a couple have come out to trail ride with you said, it's easier to say "YES!" when you know the other person has experience and is well-aware of the dangers involved.

Jenn said...

P.S. See that green gate in the background? It appears to be the exact same shade of green on Gabbrielle's muzzle! I'll bet she was nosing it while it was wet or her muzzle was wet and a little bit o' paint transfer happened. Those gates tend to "shed" a dust of paint after they've been out in the elements for a time. Go rub a gloved hand across it and I'll bet it comes back green tinted.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

dp - Horse are definitely individuals and not vehicles.

OnTheBit - It was your post that reminded me that I've been meaning to do this post for a while.

LuLu - That too. People can damage a horse pretty quick.

Jenn - That gate was the first thing I thought of, but I couldn't see a place where there were teeth marks or where the paint was coming off. So, after reading your comment I took a white tissue out there and rubbed various locations on the gate. The paint didn't rub off until I found a spot underneath the pipe that had been chewed. So, the mystery is now solved.

Tracey said...

It can get pretty sticky, can't it? Thankfully, not many people ask to come ride when they hear I have mustangs...they cringe and tell me to be careful. I smile and say I will :D

Grey Horse Matters said...

Aside from the liability issue and people getting hurt and suing. My horses are not for hire. We've worked long and hard to train them correctly and we don't want others ruining them.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

On occasion I have let friends and even children ride one of my horses, Nadia, under supervision, but not my other two, because they need better riders. A good excuse I use, and you can too, is that they are "hot" Arabians and not well enough trained for other riders yet. Also, my horses are often too small for other people.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Tracey - I think I would actually feel confident riding a trained mustang, especially one trained by you, but one fresh off the range would be a deterrent.

Grey Horse - I agree.

Fantasyk V - There was one case where I knew my horses were too small for a woman who I believe probably weighed around 350 pounds, but I certainly didn't want to tell her that. I just changed the subject every time she talked about riding my horses.

Andrea said...

Out of our 17 horses that we have here at our house, only 2 are good enough to just put anybody on. One one of the two, my 7 year old has fallen off of. So, like you said, you just never know. And I hate it when people come over and ask to ride. They start riding and all they want to do is go fast. Canter here and Canter there with their arms flying and hands jerking. So, I have limited my riders. My three year old rides better than some of the adults that come out here and Yee Haw around.

One time a lady told my friend (who went to horse college with me) "Don't ride Andrea's horse, she puts "special" buttons on the horse and it's hard to ride." Well, good, stay off my special horse.

I also think it's funny how I can get on my horse and she will look and act like the perfect dressage horse, someone else gets on and he looks like a spoiled trail horse!! LOL!!

Anyway, I get edgy when it comes to people riding my horses. My husband keeps trying to get me to give lessons again, but I don't want people riding my horses. I am lucky I have two very broke horses, but I still am careful about who rides them. It all makes me nervous.

KD said...

I have taken one co-worker on the trails with me on my trustworthy 22 yr old appy - but she really did ride when she was younger. I've also had a picnic at my house for co-worker and led their children around in the round pen. My riding friends can borrow or ride my horses because I trust them, but other than that ... no way. Like what has already been mentioned....when spend too much time agonizing about how we ride our own horses to let someone else get on them and "ruin" our training ! :-)

Callie said...

Don't you have a state liability law? Our state does and you have to post it to cover yourself. Mine states that this is an equine facility and basically if you are standing on this property reading this sign, you assume the risk of injury on your own.

Katharine Swan said...

She simply wanted to clean some stalls, jump on the back of a horse, and gallop through the daisies with her hair streaming behind her like in the movies.

I laughed so hard at this! I know exactly the kind of person you mean.

The only people who have ever ridden Panama are me and my trainer. He has spooked and caused me to fall a few times, and there's no way I would risk someone else's safety by putting them on his back.

My biggest reason, though, is simply that I am selfish. He's MY horse, and I have spent countless hours with him -- grooming, playing, scolding, and working patiently through his issues. I've earned the right to ride him.

As far as I'm concerned, someone else asking to ride my horse is kind of like someone asking for a ride on my husband!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

LOL- But she must realize it...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

So does this mean that once I've been given the Dr ok to get back in the saddle, and I come visit you, NM, that you'll invite me to ride Lostine or Bombay with you? Whoohooo! :D

(I'm also just fine with you and I finding some margaritas and chips, salsa and brownies...and just settling back to laugh and talk horses. hehe)


Leah Fry said...

Jaz was a lesson horse, so he gets pony ride duty when folks come. I have had several people -- GUYS -- who say they want to ride Poco. Mmmm NO. Since I have owned him, only my two very experienced friends have ridden him. He tossed Heather, and Nita wasn't on him long enough for anything to happen -- he makes her really nervous for some reason. He's nobody's pocket pony.

Yeah, I used to be that naive...

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Andrea - With 17 horses I'll bet people think you've got plenty to go around.

KD - It's good that you do have people you can trust to ride them.

Callie - If all you've got to do is post a sign like that to CYA, then I'm in.

Katharine - Ha! Ha! Yeah, I definitely wouldn't want anyone riding my husband either. But you do bring up a good point that your relationship with your riding horse is like a marriage.

Fantastyk V - Ummmmm, I'm not so sure... Some people haven't looked in a mirror in a while.

Lisa - Yes, you do qualify now that you have battle scars. Margaritas? Did you say Margaritas? It's been a long time, but I can taste the salt right now...

Leah - Lesson horses are special breed. I once had a trainer tell me that Bombay would make a good lesson horse. I thought she was complimenting him for having a level head, but now I realize she was really insulting my riding. LOL.

lytha said...

Back when I had a job, I had a colleague ask me once if he could ride my horse. He said he wanted to go for a "run" on my horse.

I said, "Practice jumping out of your car on the freeway. When you're really good at that, I'll let you run on my horse."

That ended that: )


Haley said...

Wow, I wish I would have read this post so many years ago. I grew up LOVING horses, but my parents wouldn't sign me up for lessons (Mom was determined that I would not be a tomboy...didn't work). I would beg neighbors to let me ride, and always be devastated when they said no. I never thought of it from this perspective, now that I'm older and am actually taking lessons, it actually makes a lot of sense! I'll definitely be more hesitant to ask to ride.

Vaquerogirl said...

"As far as I'm concerned, someone else asking to ride my horse is kind of like someone asking for a ride on my husband!"
That just says it all now don't it! Hahahaaa!!Hoo Haaa!

J U S T S A Y N O.
works everytime you try it!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lytha - You are such a card. A creative one too!

Haley - Yeah, I had to go to day camp to be able to ride horses. Most random people who owned horses wouldn't let just anyone ride.

Vaquerogirl - That makes two people who have now compared riding one's horse to "riding" one's husband. I guess horses must maintain monogomous relationships with their riders.

Flying Lily said...

Well I have caved in on this a few times and always regretted it - either the horse has a bad experience being asked unintelligible questions, or the rider has a bad experience with 'What is he doing?', or both. And never would I let either horse go out on trail with a strange rider. Too many awful possibilities.

deserthorses5 said...

Oh, boy! I hear 'ya! With my back injury, the ONLY other person who rides Beauty is my cousin, Valerie, who trained her! And, like you, I've been injured and just haven't had the time (or energy) to do much with ours! I'm hoping that now I can get to work on them! My cousin won't have time until the summer to help out, but I have some 3 day weekends and a week off during spring break!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I NEVER rode a horse (other than "tied" pony rides) until I bought my first horse! My friends and I traded horses a few times as kids, but we always decided we liked our own mounts best.

I actually like to see other people ride my horses (if they're horse people) but usually my horses are too advanced. I sold one mare who NEVER bucked to a stable friend and she got bucked off several times in the beginning of their relationship together! The mare was dressage trained and got confused from mixed cues. Once the rider figured out how to ride, the horse went along fine.

Which reminds me, I do have a Release of Liability sign posted on my barn, but it needs repainting. It helps but does not guarantee exemption from lawsuits.

Reddunappy said...

We will give kiddie rides, but I wont let just anyone ride my girls. I have to say I realy havnt been asked, isnt that wierd. maybe I come across to strong where my horses are concerned.

Rising Rainbow said...

I don't let just anyone ride my horses either. I don't ask to drive their cars. boats or airplanes and I'm sure not going to share my horse. It's hard enough to have someone who comes to look at a horse to buy ride. I have had a few of those I wouldn't let ride either when it was clear from they way they talked they weren't right for my horses.