In the event you should find yourself without a regular steed to ride, might I suggest heading to your local Facebook group?

As fate would have me, the horseless rider, stumble upon a lovely 16.1 warmblood gelding, I debated whether or not I should contact the owner through Facebook. The prospect was nerve-wracking, but I was feeling the desperate urge to ride. I’m not one to tell me no, so contact the owner I did.

I didn’t expect anything to come of the situation, however I had a reply in very little time. The speed prompted an onslaught of worries that lasted, thankfully, only briefly. What if the horse was dangerous? What if he was too green, too this, too that… and I couldn’t handle it? I pushed those thoughts out of my mind though, attempting to grasp the concept of my own capability.

In my initial message, I described my riding career. My journey through IHSA, traveling into adulthood without a trusty steed.  Mother knows best in many cases; horse-moms count, too. This horse’s owner knew his skill level, his history, and the extent of his training. Our conversations helped us feel each other out, and I went to see if the adorable gelding would be a good fit for the time she needed a rider for him.

His owner represented him truthfully, which was important in making this situation work. I know, I know. Finding horse to ride on Facebook might sound like a worrisome venture, and believe me I thought it might be at first. But what do you gain if you don’t give it a shot? Craigslist stories are rarely happy endings, and often it seems like those who have found horses on Facebook regret their decisions. By depicting my riding experience truthfully, this horse’s owner was able to recognize our suitability and trust her horse in my hands.

You know, figuratively. But in all reality, literally too because he had the softest mouth, accepting just the slightest pressure of contact readily.

What I wasn’t expecting hit me in the form of a wave of insecurity. I was entrusted with someone’s horse. I’ve ridden others’ horses before, plenty of times. But the responsibility of caring for someone’s horse, hands off, struck me as very heavy. We love our horses, so much so they’re part of our families. They’re our friends, our partners… you know the story. It’s in our nature to love our horses so much it’s hard to see someone else on them. Even if it’s for the best, for their well being.

Babysitting someone else’s horse has made me ride better, smarter, more effectively, and it’s made me pay attention to my knowledge. Instead of assuming I know what he’ll do, I have to draw on my knowledge to plan, prepare, and execute exercises or drills to benefit him positively.

If this is a situation you should find yourself in, you can set yourself up for success and safety by providing an accurate description of your abilities. Ask questions you aren’t sure of the answers to. Questions (all us neurotic owners) would love to be asked could range any topic, like this:

  • Does he have a favorite time of day? Meaning, is he going to pitch a fit that I showed up to ride during dinnertime?
  • What’s her spook like? How do you correct her if she’s acting out?
  • How badly does he hate fly spray?
  • On a scale of one to lippizanner, what kind of aerial moves does she perform when in heat?

When in doubt, simply speaking up can increase trust between you and Horse-Momma you’re babysitting for.