While there are many equestrian disciplines, there are only two kinds of riding lessons: Circle Lessons and Adventure Lessons.
In a Circle Lesson, you ride around an arena and follow instructions. In an Adventure Lesson, you ride down a trail and follow your instructor.
Out there, your instructor takes on the role of narrator, while Nature does the actual teaching.
We all know which one is more work and which one is more fun. So, when an instructor gives us a choice, it’s into the woods we go.
The Back 28
At least that’s what Paul, my lesson colleague, and I choose when it’s left it up to us.
Paul is taking lessons on a little Quarter Horse so that one day he can go riding in the Rockies. An Adventure Lesson fits his goals nicely.
I just don’t want to work. So, a ride in the woods fits my goal, as well.
Plus, as I write this, my part of the country still has nice weather. There will be plenty of time in the long winter months — as you read this — to pay homage to the Indoor Deities of the Infinite Circle.
Of course, we’ve ridden the property of Legacy Stables before and are well-acquainted with all the wonders this 28 acres can hold: The Field of Repetitive Dreams (the cornfield in back); marvelous Mount Legacy (a leftover pile of dirt next to where they built the arena); and, of course, the amazing Trees of Temptation (the apple orchard where the horses will take you if you don’t steer them properly).
This time, our instructor, Karin, has something different in mind.
Trail Riding 201
At the far corner of the Field of Repetitive Dreams, Karin cues her pony to the left instead of to the right.
Right would’ve taken us around the cornfield and back to the safe, familiar barn area. Left takes us into the tall grass and toward the impassable line of large trees that border the property.
We follow the madwoman because we trust.
As we breach the impassable line of large trees, I feel like a Hobbit leaving The Shire.
I turn to Paul behind me. “Hang on tight, and prepare for Trail Riding 201.”
Paul’s eyes light up. I shudder at the realization that he’s as crazy as Karin is.
As we emerge on the other side of the trees, there are just more trees. The tall grass gets taller, and small branches whap us in the face as we duck the bigger ones.
We get soaked from dew. Thorny vines beckon us to stay as they reach out and tear at our skin and clothes. I curse at their presumption.
“This is fun!” Paul chirps.
The horses show little concern with what’s happening on the upper level. Footing is their primary concern. My mount also seems to have time to snatch leaves and field grass as we work our way through the brush.
I decide it’s time I say something. “Karin. In order for it to be a trail ride, there has to be a trail.”
She chuckles. Paul chuckles. And we press on.
We come upon a truly impassable area of underbrush. Karin halts and twists her body halfway around in the saddle, “You guys have heard of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, right?”
Paul nods and grins. I nod and wonder where this is going.
“Well, this is the wardrobe,” Karin proclaims. “Follow me!”
I turn and cup my mouth. “Paul! If she offers you any candy with foreign-sounding names, tell her no!”
As Karin and her pony burst through the trees, I half expect to hear Liam Neeson’s voice blowing in the treetops: ���Well done, Young One…”
Paul urges me on from behind. “This is so cool! I could do this all day!”
I feel like I’m stuck between Lucy Pevensie and the Giant Rumblebuffin.
I tell you what, if I see any of those freaky half-horse/half-man things on the other side, I’ll have a bunch of questions.
We matriculate through the “wardrobe,” and sure enough, the other side is indeed very nice. Not Narnia nice, but what is?
After a short, sharp incline on a well-traveled path, we emerge on a plateau. From there, we can see a neighboring horse farm. A short stroll takes us past well-kept buildings and fences. Ah, civilization.
Inquisitive equines approach the fence line and gaze at this curious Band of Wanderers as we disappear off the plateau and on to the end of their Adventure Lesson.
I think Paul will do just fine in the Rockies.
Freelance writer Bob Goddard lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Jenny and assorted pets. His latest book is Horse Crazy!A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide for Parents of Horse Addicted Girls. To order, and to read his humorous blog, "Bob the Equestrian," visit www.horsecrazy.net.