When non-horsey people drop not-so-subtle hints that they’d like to go riding with you, how do you respond?
People are constantly saying things to me like, “Oh, my daughter loves horses! I bet she’d love to meet yours” or “I rode at summer camp as a kid and I’m dying to do it again.” I always smile and make some vague promise to show them around the barn sometime, but deep down I hope and pray they never cash in my offer. An equestrian evangelist I am not.
It’s not that I don’t like them or enjoy their company; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. My freshman year of college, I brought my dorm roommate Jamie out to the barn with me. She was a riding virgin, but I figured that if I put her on my sister’s seasoned event horse and we just went out for a relaxing trail ride, everything would be fine.
I was wrong. My sister’s horse mistook her swinging legs for a cue to take off at lightning speed, at which point she fell off and broke her arm. Oops.
From that point forward, I vowed never to bring people I cared about riding ever again. I stuck to my guns for several years until, ironically, I met the one person who means more to me than anyone else in my life: my fiancé, Tommy. Shortly after we started dating, Tommy started dropping hints that he’d like to learn how to ride. I could tell it was more than just a sweet way of expressing his support for my habit; he genuinely wanted to be on the back of a horse.
It was time to face my fear. I eventually relented, handpicking the most bombproof horse in the barn for him to take out on a quiet (for real this time!) trail ride. I held my breath the whole time, but his mount behaved itself and got the love of my life back to the barn in one piece. Bullet dodged, right?
Unfortunately, the pleasant experience only fueled Tommy’s desire to ride again. The next time, I put him on the lunge line for a proper lesson, hoping that my militant commands–“Up! Down! Up! Down!”—would prove enough to convince him that riding actually wasn’t that fun after all. Again, no luck.
After graduating from Beginner Horseback Riding 101, he got distracted with some other projects, like asking me to marry him, and so hasn’t been to the barn in several months. But with all this balmy spring weather, the question was bound to surface again. During a car trip this weekend, he recited a list of things he wants to do in the near future: play soccer, grill out, go camping, get new tires for his bicycle and… go riding.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still gun-shy, but I’m also kind of excited. How lucky am I to have found someone who wants to share in one of the most important parts of my life?
I think, as citizens of Horse Nation, we have to also be ambassadors. Safety-freak ambassadors who make our loved ones wear helmets and safety vests and sign liability release forms, but ambassadors all the same. We have to keep reaching out to non-horsey people, because we were non-horsey people once, too. And at some point, someone probably reached out to us.
Grab a friend and Go Riding.