Our Area is Rich with Horses, Professionals and Wonderful 4-H Programs for Kids
My horse obsession began in 1988 around the age of three. My cousin had a black, Thoroughbred mare that I was taken into a lead line class on at a horse show. I won the class, as I was the only participant; however, that didn’t matter. I toted that blue ribbon around with me for the next three years, until finally, all the time I devoted to whining and nagging my parents to let me take riding lessons had paid off!
For many horse fanatics, we experience love at first sight with these tremendous creatures. Once you’re hooked, there’s no turning back! Whether you are interested in breeding, trail and leisure riding, competition or a companion in your backyard, horses have all of that to offer and more, as well as a bond between horse and rider that for some, cannot be put into words.
If you or your children are interested in horses, read on to help guide and direct you in taking the first step into the horse world. It is a worthwhile hobby, to say the least.
Western or English?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with any of the jibber-jabber above, let’s get down to basics. There are a substantial amount of horse breeds in the world, and for all intents and purposes of this article, the most popular are the American Quarter Horse, Arabian, and Thoroughbred. All breeds excel at different disciplines, so let’s get that covered as well.
What are your interests? There is a plethora of riding styles to choose from; two of the most popular are western and English riding. Western riding uses a saddle with a horn, and can cover anything from trail and pleasure riding to showing, barrel racing, reining and roping … just to name a few. The traditional cowboy used this saddle, and the American Quarter Horse excels at this.
Ask yourself these questions: Would I like to move at a more relaxed pace? Would I enjoy riding out on the open range? Would I like to race around barrels or be in a rodeo? Would I enjoy wearing colorful, flashy attire in the show ring? If you answered yes to any these questions, western riding may be for you.
The English or “hunt seat” style uses a saddle without a horn, and can still be used for trail and pleasure riding. However, the seat traditionally encompasses disciplines such as showing, both on the flat and over fences, dressage, three-day eventing and polo. English can be easily deciphered from western not only by the saddle, but by the rider wearing knee-high hunt boots, breeches and a helmet. The Thoroughbred and warm-blooded breeds excel at this.
Ask yourself these questions: Would I like to move at a faster pace? Would I enjoy jumping over fences? Would I prefer to wear a traditional blazer and helmet rather than chaps and a cowboy hat? If you answered yes to any of these questions, English riding may be for you.
Keep in mind that many breeds are versatile and can excel at several different disciplines, such as the American Quarter Horse and the Arabian. Generally, riders try a variety of riding disciplines throughout their years in the sport, and excel in one that they prefer over the other.
Finding your Niche in the Horse World
For those living in the Cattaragus/McKean County areas, you’re in luck. This neck of the woods is rich with horses, professionals and wonderful 4-H horse program for your little ones.
If your child is under the age of 18, sign him/her up with your local 4-H Club. 4-H is a fantastic way to supplement any horse-crazy child’s toolbox. I was in 4-H, in addition to my outside show and pleasure riding career, for 11 years. In Cattaraugus County, contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office in Ellicottville, NY at 716-699-2377. In McKean County, contact the McKean County Extension Office in Smethport, Pa. at 814-887-5613.
Not a horse owner, but you’re interested in riding, showing or improving your skills? Take a riding lesson. Many local stables offer lessons by the hour, and sometimes even by the half-hour. You’ll only be required to wear proper footwear and a helmet. They’ll take care of the rest. Google horseback riding lessons in your area, or try to nab down a local professional for guidance.
Not interested in taking a lesson, and just want to go on a leisurely stroll through the woods? Sign up for a guided trail ride. For a fee, an experienced trail guide can take you through the woods with a group of people. Check out our article below about The Crosspatch, located in Salamanca, NY.
After riding for a few years with a local stable, I continued whining and nagging my parents until finally, at the age of eight, they bought me my own horse. My very rewarding and satisfying show career, full of blood, sweat and tears had begun, and continues throughout my adult life. However, when I wasn’t training, I was throwing on my Western saddle and hitting the trails for a little R&R.
If you are interested in horses, don’t hesitate to pursue them. They have provided me with some of the best past times, learning experiences and life lessons that I’ve come across thus far. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Riding horses is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion.”