Thursday, February 26, 2009


When I was seventeen, I used to ride a horse called Viking. This was in a riding school setting and this horse was by far the best dressage horse on the property. However, he was virtually impossible to ride, as he would pretty much by default and without a single warning break into long sporadic bucking sprees which in turn (by default as well) would send his rider flying. (Note by author: Riding school life in Europe in the eighties was “a bit” on the wild side…)

After several of the more experienced riders had been dumped, it was my turn to try to stay on.
Have I mentioned that if you tell me I can’t do something, I sure as hell with show you I can?

In any case, it turned out I had a talent; Viking could not buck me off, no matter how hard he tried. Rodeo was my calling! My riding teacher was overjoyed; finally there was a rider who could “show the piece of shit horse” who was who. I was given a very long dressage whip and told to hit him hard if he started bucking and continue until he stopped (or I came off, whichever came first). Can you believe I actually felt honored??

So… for weeks Viking tried to dump me and all the while as we charged around the arena, I proceeded to beat the living crap out of the poor horse. And I hit him hard, as hard as I possibly could, because more than anything else, I wanted to do exactly what my riding teacher, whom I secretly idolized, told me to do.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all just rodeo with Viking and me; there were some good moments in between, excellent moments even. In fact, this horse was the first horse to really teach me something meaningful about dressage. Yes, he would buck like a demon, but after about ten enormous leaps and ten matching whacks from my whip, he would let it go and turn into the dressage equivalent of a Ferrari.

Looking back at all that, it still amazes me that nobody, not a single person (me included), took a moment to question WHY this horse was acting out like it was. The first (and only) solution, was to beat the bad behavior out of him, because – it was bad, wasn’t it?
Now how would that work if we were talking for instance about a child, instead of a horse? Let’s see… imagine if your five yr old child kept wetting his bed every night. Would you take a stick at him and beat him until he stopped?
I didn’t think so.

These particular events still haunt me, maybe because I am finding it hard to forgive myself for what happened or maybe because in the midst of it all, I never had the chance to thank Viking for everything he taught me. I am not proud of my seventeen year old self, but I think I did learn something: I have never taken a whip at a horse like that since.


PS. Later, Viking was sold and apparently he continued his bronco show where ever he went.

1 comment:

  1. Reading all your posts talking about childhood riding, and thinking of all the trainers that told me and my friends to beat our horses, makes me wonder how I stayed sane at all.

    It also makes me feel proud of my young self; I couldn't speak against an adult, none of us could of course, but I got real slick at "transferring my crop to the outside" where the trainer couldn't see it, then either dropping it in the corner dirt out of the way, or tucking it in my high boots where it rubbed me raw, but mare theoretically couldn't see it, and definitely couldn't feel it. We all had to figure out ways around it, huh?