An Extraordinary Partner

Region 12 Youth Jamboree Essay

“Lessons I Have Learned From My Horse”

By Shane Kenny

Where do I even begin…?  I have an extraordinary partner in my life.  Her name is Ginger Rai Fire, an eleven-year-old half Arabian mare.  She has taught me so much.  I could say something predictable like “friendship” or “how to ride a horse” but I was allowed the opportunity to learn something way more valuable–I learned how to ride with a horse.

I don’t think a lot of people really know what it’s like to ride with your partner in and out of the show ring.  My mom and I were at the Arabian Horse Celebration in Newberry, Florida, where so many kids jumped on their horses right as they were trotting into the ring.  They didn’t know how to ride with their horse; they just knew how to get on after their trainer had worked their horse then trot into the ring immediately after mounting.  My horse is a horse where every rider has to prove to her that they’re going to contribute just as much as she is to the ride.

Riding with a horse is so much different than riding on a horse.  To ride with a horse you have to become in sync with whatever the horse is performing.  It requires learning your horse and your horse learning you and your seat as a rider.  You should be able to close your eyes and be able to feel what your horse is doing underneath you with just your seat and legs. And believe me, it’s amazing to be able to say “I can ride blindfolded and with no reins and still keep my horse collected and going forward!”

My horse has also taught me to put the horse’s safety first.  She was unable to hold the canter for the last three years due to a bad accident and got very sick in 2007 but the vets couldn’t figure out what was causing her to feel and look so ill.  She got better in about three to four weeks but was never really the same.  She tried just as hard as before to please me but never could work for that long.  Eventually, after three years she broke down and started refusing to go forward.  I then looked to Patricia Cleveland of The Balanced Horse Program for help.  She worked on Ginger for several weeks and then informed me that half of her neck muscle on her right side was torn and that she had fractured her pelvis due to a buggy accident about three years prior…  The strange thing was I never knew about her being hooked up to a buggy.  It took five months of Regenerative TLC before Ginger could hold the canter again, and we’re still working her self-confidence to trust it won’t hurt anymore.

She asked if I knew of her injuries and I replied “no”.  I then realized that my horse went around the show ring for 3 years literally fighting her body.  Her muscles were tearing more and more each time and she never let it show until she just couldn’t physically, mentally, and emotionally work anymore.  I couldn’t help but think I owe this mare everything.  That’s when I realized this horse was my partner, not my acquaintance.   It baffled me to think that she never let me down even though she was tearing her body up.

I then really started to get into the deep thinking process of why horses would say “I’d like to do this” but just couldn’t.  I figured out that there is always a way to fix an issue and that most issues are actually structural issues of the horse.  With Pat’s help, I learned to read Ginger’s ear and eye movements as I run my hands over her body to find where she hurt and which bone wasn’t quite where it should be.  Most horses never just rush the bit or rear because they don’t want to work, they do it because something internally is hurting.

I learned from my experiences with Ginger that if you can fix them structurally you can actually create a very strong bond with your horse because they know you will listen to them and help them when they refuse a command.  All the horses I ride should also thank Ginger.  Because of her, I listen to the horse’s body language to figure out why there is resistance and make sure the horse is physically sound so I don’t push them into pain.

Ginger has taught me so much about the dedication a horse will give to her rider by putting my safety before her own pain.

For that, Ginger’s forever home will be my barn.