Lee Pitts: Riding instructions
So, you want to be a cowboy? The first thing you’re going to want to learn to do is ride a horse, but horses are like computers in that none of them comes with a “Riding Horses for Idiots” book, or instructions, other than, “He’s a little waspy in the morning but he’ll line-out by evening.” Or, “I’d watch those hind feet if I were you.”
There is more to making a hand than polishing your backside on a saddle. Having the proper tack so as to not look like a gunsel is the most important thing. Saddles come in two types: English and western. Picking the right one depends on if you have a flat rear end, or a round one. You’ll have to be the judge of that.
For your introductory ride have an ambulance and paramedics standing by and stage the event at a riding or rodeo arena so you won’t have to repeatedly walk a long distance to retrieve your horse after it bucks you off. Always remember, you’ll break fewer bones falling on soft dirt than you will on hard rocks. Don’t wear clown shoes or you could get your foot caught in the stirrup and your horse will transform you into a human plow. On the other hand, by disking the dirt you would be making the ground softer for all future falls.
Become proficient at judging the merits of horseflesh, or in your case, tail wringers, sunfishers, broncs and the nearly dead, which are the only horses you’re going to be offered as a neophyte. Try to pick out a horse that weighs more than you do with a full tail, as the tails on maniacs are often cut as a warning. It’s like the warning label on a pack of cigarettes which everyone ignores. It’s the same with horses. You wouldn’t want to ride a horse without any spunk or spirit, would you?
After you have identified your mount have someone catch it for you. If you can catch the horse yourself it means it lacks ambition and is too lazy to run away. In the cowboy vernacular, “You’ll have to carry the deadbeat around on your spurs all day.” At this point it might also be wise to ask someone if the horse has ever been ridden before. If not, you’re probably NOT going to need those goofy spurs you’re wearing.
Make sure the cinch is tight because that will be the only thing holding you on top of the horse, instead of under it. Walk your horse around in a small circle three times, set your reins while you are still on the ground and DON’T stand on a rock or box to climb aboard or you’ll be laughed out of the bunkhouse. Ride a miniature horse if you have to, but don’t use a ladder to get on.
Welcome aboard. Now, don’t look down. Note all the leather strings hanging from the saddle. Don’t ever be afraid of grabbing them if you feel yourself falling. This is where the term, ‘pullin’ leather’ comes from. There is, however, a big debate on whether or not it’s all right to grab the saddle horn, shake hands with grandma, or squeeze the biscuit. Some say go right ahead, that’s what the horn was put there for, while purists say the horn is only for taking your dally. My feeling is that the horn wasn’t put on the western saddle just so team ropers could go broke entering jackpots, USTRC ropings and rodeos every weekend. So go ahead. Grab the apple.
To go forward, gently nudge your horse with your spurs and say “Giddeup.” If you want to stop pull back on the reins. If this doesn’t work I’d be looking for a good place to jump off if I were you, keeping in mind that points are awarded for stylish dismounts.
And that’s about it. It’s really not all that complicated. I know a lot of people get carried away with the finer points about changing leads and all that ridiculous bouncing up and down and stuff. I don’t know anything about any of that because I didn’t go to a private school or a riding academy back east where they teach such things. Just remember to keep your butt in the middle with a leg hanging down each side, steer with the reins and let the horse go in the direction it’s going. After all, he’s done this before. You haven’t.