On the Courage of Riding

One of the most common things I’ve heard this summer is “Gosh, you’re so brave!”

Sometimes it’s just for the act of moving that incites this compliment – some people can’t contemplate leaving behind their lives for new ones. (I couldn’t contemplate not leaving behind my old life.)

Mostly, though, it’s because I admit that I go out in the morning and ride horses on the racetrack.

Come on.

You’ve all ridden fresh horses. How many of you have ridden OTTBs, or, for that matter, remarkably bad ponies, at horse shows? Cross-country? On trail rides, past washing machines and scary Other Horses? How many of you have had heated arguments with flustered and rambunctious horses in barn lanes and in dressage arenas, and how many of you stuck it out, won the fight, went on to ride still more to teach that damn horse who was boss?

Come on. We’re all brave. Anyone who gets on a horse is brave. And possibly a little crazy and maybe a closet control-freak.

The challenge of riding racehorses comes from the perception of it. It’s a racehorse, on a racetrack, and I’ve never ridden that horse before!

But I have ridden Thoroughbreds across open fields, with often-chaotic results. And I admit, I did ride yearlings and two-year-olds. Which was pretty scary from time to time. But I’ve had much scarier moments taking Warmbloods into jumping arenas, too. My thought was, basically: a fresh horse is a fresh horse. Put your feet forward for a bucker, put your body forward for a bolter, and hang on. The rest will come to you with time.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all gotten on horses we didn’t want to ride, and we’ve all ridden them through crap when all we wanted to do was jump off and go hide with our heads under our pillows. In an arena, in the woods, in a field, on a racetrack. We’re all brave.

Bravery, friends, is just getting on a horse. Any horse can dump you. (Remember, I’m scared to death of Quarter Horses. And it takes courage for me to admit that.)

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13 Comments

Filed under racetrack life

13 responses to “On the Courage of Riding

  1. You hit the nail on the head!

    Although I do believe a lot of the “courageous” comments about you riding on the track is because most people have never actually truly galloped their horses. It’s a thrill…it’s exhilarating…and it’s a wee bit scary because you are running hell-bent at a pretty good pace, it can feel like you are losing control of your mount and it is definitely different than a canter.

    Add to that racetrack and fresh Thoroughbred and I truly doubt a lot of riders have the courage to get on and GO!

  2. I love the full-out gallop but since I don’t have access to a racetrack, it always ends too soon. My little arab thinks he was a racehorse in another life. 😛 Just once, before I die, I’d like to be on a real track. 😀

  3. Fiona

    I still will persist in calling you brave. New York’s courts have long recognized riding as inherently risky. Sadly, one of the leading cases involved the accident when Ron Turcotte was paralyzed. The being brave part of riding is the emotional part of what makes it under the law “inherently risky.” Riding epitomizes the legal definition of inherent risk. One can’t participate in the sport as it is defined without knowing you might get hurt. It wouldn’t be riding if it weren’t risky. It would merely be the blonde joke in front of Woolworth’s.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      But – I won’t get on a roller coaster.

      And I hate flying.

      And I’m scared of heights.

      And deeply claustrophobic.

      Bravery is a matter of personal perspective (and delusion).

  4. laurie

    After my spill and my ride in the life flight helicopter, surgeries etc….one would expect that I would be afraid to ride. Actually I was more afraid of what would happen if I didn’t ride again.

  5. Karl

    OK Natalie I’ll bite…..why are you scared to death of (cuddly teddy bear) Quarter Horses? Or is that tomorrows installment?

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Cuddly teddy bear?! Like a freaking panda bear is cute!

      Quarter Horses, with the exception of my first horse, who was perfect, tend to treat me with a dirty disdain. Oh we’re galloping, oh we’re galloping, OH we’re bucking, imagine that, hahahah! Who saw that coming!?

      And my jaw still hurts. And it’s been six years.

      Quarter Horses. Hmmph.

  6. Hi Natalie,

    Just wanted to say hello and let you know how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. I’ve given you a little shout out at The Equine Reader bc I think you are doing great work.

    PS, don’t let those big, bad QHs get under your skin. Or, if they do, try switching to Paints…worked for me! 🙂

  7. Portia

    Yes I have a strange fear of QH’s, paints and appaloosas. I should really say it is the spoiled backyard horse I have a fear of. Those are the ones who have sent me to the hospital. Tb’s on the other hand I seem to be able to live quite well with maybe it is that experience at the track or the years retraining them to be well schooled show horses but they just seem to be more eager to please than other breeds. Oh yeah I also love Akhal Tekes but they seem to have the same outlook on life as a TB. I do think it is a perspective because I am very claustrophobic ,scared of heights and lightening. Some people amaze me that will walk out in a storm with no fear at all. THat is being brave or well maybe stupid?

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Statistically, what are the chances of getting struck by lightning? Really, what are they? And yet I’m scared to death to walk outside in a thunderstorm. It’s everyone’s personal phobias.

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