The horse world, like the fashion world, relies to a large extent on illusion, or the self-delusion of its participants.
I am, and will always be, a size 8. The fact that the size listed on the label of the clothes I wear has two numbers side by side instead of one changes nothing. It’s a mistake, a cruel joke played by Chinese manufacturers on western women.
I am also part of a growing group of senior riders and carriage drivers who are getting better at horse sports as we get older. We are defying and re-defining the aging process.
The fact that our mounting blocks are getting higher, our horses are getting shorter, and we have more accidents than we used to means nothing. We spend a fortune on lessons and clinics and have the best equipment money can buy. Of course we are improving.
A clever driving coach suggested I team up with another senior driving student to make our practice sessions at home with our horses safer. “Driving is not a solitary sport, you know. You could help each other out,” she suggested.
What she meant was that two broken down old ladies working together will last longer together than separately. Two arthritic 60 somethings together equal one fit 30-year-old, don’t they?
Our delusions extend to our horses as well. My driving buddy’s horse I have nicknamed George the Dragon. He’s huge, black, and has a long, thick, arching neck and deep nostrils that probably glow in the dark. He has a relatively short fuse that I pray will not explode while I am clinging to the back of my buddy’s carriage as she practices driving patterns at top speed in her grass ring. I would say George the Dragon is one hot horse. My buddy describes him as motivated, alert and “fun” to drive.
My Haflinger horse, Starski, is a far superior driving and riding horse.
He is strong, calm, sweet and sane and is a dream to drive. The Dragon’s owner, however, describes him as short, fat, and lazy. She smirks whenever he falls asleep while we are adjusting his harness and hooking him to the cart. I remind her that he is merely energy efficient, an admirable trait.
We both bought the safest, most stable carriages on the market. We were so keen to find models that are low enough to the ground to enter easily that we ignored the weight.
My Puddle Jumper weighs in at 270 lbs. My driving partner’s cross-country vehicle is close to 400 lbs.
My plucky friend taught me to help push hers up a steep pair of ramps into her trailer at the end of a practice session. Last time, she and I both almost ended up underneath the buggy when it slipped off. Her neck was nearly yanked off its axis. My arm has never been quite the same since, although I pretended otherwise.
Last week, when I arrived at her farm to help her she was wearing sweat pants and flip flops. George the Dragon was grazing in the sun, completely naked.
“I thought I would ask you in for a coffee this week instead,” said my driving partner.
“I thought you would never ask,” I replied.
Anne Patterson is a horse enthusiast and freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.