I got the horses in the back (page)

November 15, 2019 — by Anouk Yeh

“Horse girl.” “Yeehaw.” “Neighhhh.” These are all phrases that have been mercilessly pelted at me ever since I started riding horses.

My journey as a “horse girl” (using the phrase in an act of reclamation) began one fateful day in fourth grade when my mom decided to let me take a trail ride at Garrod Farms. The entire trail ride lasted 45 minutes and I got to ride a sweet, old horse named Jack. 

Although we ended up getting rained on during the trail and although Jack walked as slow as a snail — describing his gait as a “walk” is a euphemistic stretch ‚ 10-year-old me immediately fell in love with the idea of horseback riding. Ever since then, I have been pummeled with all sorts of aforementioned comments. 

Although being labeled as a “horse girl” sure dampens the morale, the thing that bothers me the most is not the nicknames, but rather the immediate assumption that people make when I mention horseback riding — namely, that it’s easy. 

In reality, riding is hard work. I mean, what other sport requires you to steer a 1,200 pound animal between your legs, while looking like you belong on the cover of Southern Living? What other sport requires you to constantly dance the fine line between a regular afternoon practice and a trip to the ER, while still staying sane? Suffice to say, riding isn’t just one smooth yeehaw. No, the sport is more like three choppy and juxtaposed yEeHAaWs strung together. As evidence, here are some of the most challenging riding moments I have faced. 

 

The Indy incident

This entire incident happened on a normal Tuesday after school practice at the barn. I was warming up on Indy, a black and white mare, when something caught her eye. 

To this day I still don’t know what it was, but it sent her full-speed cantering straight into the safety of a hedge on the outskirts of the arena. 

Because of the height and makeup of the hedge, all that ended up sticking out from the leaves was my head. I had no choice but to spend the next 10 minutes patiently sitting in the hedge, waiting for my trainer to come find me in my infantile state. Yeah, not a good look. 

 

The Stanford escapade

This incident happened at Stanford University’s Red Barn. It was the end of my first ever practice with the Stanford Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team and everything was going smoothly. We were getting ready to put the horses back into their stalls, when all of a sudden, the unthinkable happened. 

Somehow, the horse I was grooming had broken free from the cross ties he was attached to. Within seconds, he was making his way down the barn aisles and out into the abyss of the Stanford campus.

Long story short, it took over half an hour, half of the Stanford college team, and an ungodly large number of horse treats to coax him back into his stall. Needless to say, I made a stellar first impression on my teammates and the Stanford staff.

These two examples are only a peek into how challenging horseback riding is. 

So, yes, feel free to neigh at me in the hallways, I can handle your botched parody of equine bioacoustics, but please don’t assume horseback riding is easy.