Freedom Farm’s owner Mary Gallagher

Freedom Farm’s owner Mary Gallagher

KAREN GRIFFITHS’ PENINSULA HORSEPLAY: Family that rides together, stays together

IT’S A SMART man who supports his wife’s passion for horses; more so when he takes part in riding lessons, too. Yes, a willingness to grow and learn makes for a loving companion and friendship.

Kip and Mary Tulin are regulars at Freedom Farm’s group ground-work and riding classes. Held each Friday, the morning starts at 10:30 with ground-work classes and meets again at 1 p.m. for riding classes.

Aside from coveting the large indoor arena, I’m a huge fan of the classes and programs offered by the farm, especially Hoof Beats, the afterschool riding club for youths. As with all their programs, participants can use their own horse or one of the farm’s.

Back for the winter is Mini Hoof Beats’ horsemanship and games for beginner kids ages 6 and younger. The program is offered the first Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. For only $50, the child gets to learn and ride on one of the farm’s ponies.

For more information on any of the activities going on at the farm, 493 Spring Road in Agnew, contact Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897 or visit the website www.freedom-farm.net.

Yahoos

The dictionary describes a “yahoo” as a person who is rude, boorish and stupid. In the horse world, a person called a “yahoo” is also considered ignorant, mostly because they like to get on a horse and race it at breakneck speeds without regard for the horse or the ground it’s running on.

There is a reason it’s called “breakneck” speed. Accidents occur all too frequently at top speeds. Often, a “yahoo” dreams of running a horse along a sandy beach or desert plain just like they’ve seen in movies.

What the movies don’t show is how frequently a horse is injured in the process, usually by stumbling in a mole hole or blasting out a tendon by running on a beach.

While we all start out ignorant, and are perhaps a “yahoo” ourselves, a true horseman is also a horse lover and shows a willingness to learn how to care for and treat the horse.

Then there are the “yahoos” who just want to use the horse to get what they want, like running and racing.

Much to the irritation of family members and visitors to my family’s property, I’m usually cautious about who rides my horses, including with whom and where.

Before going out to trail ride on Department of Natural Resource land, I like to give a mini-lesson in our arena, showing how to stop, go and turn and how to place hands and feet.

Last weekend, a family member had a friend visiting who really wanted to ride. The person claimed a lot of riding experience and horse savvy and wanted to be able to trail ride alone.

That wasn’t going to happen, especially since I no longer own a beginner’s horse that everyone can ride. Now it’s just our retired barrel-racer Lacey and her moody son Indy, who only likes me or my niece Brooke to ride him.

Still, I was hopeful to take the visitor on a ride, but during the visit, our schedules didn’t mesh or it was pouring rain and I didn’t want to go out.

A little ride

The visitor was leaving Monday, so as Sunday evening rolled around, I wanted to give him at least a little riding experience.

As the visitor waited inside, I got Lacey out, groomed her and saddled her up. Since it was dusk, my plan was to let him ride around in the sand arena below.

Not wanting to strain Lacey’s back, I had the visitor use a mounting block. You can tell whether a person has horse experience by the way the reins are held and how the feet are placed in the stirrups. Right away, I noted the visitor didn’t have a clue about either one, just an overconfidence in his riding ability

I walked down our 450-foot asphalt driveway to the arena alongside Lacey, explaining to the visitor that Lacey would likely step off the asphalt, now rain-slick, to walk the dirt path alongside it.

The visitor immensely enjoyed riding Lacey in the arena, admiring her quick responses to requests to walk or trot. After a bit, I asked him if he wanted to lope Lacey.

“No, I’m good.”

As the black of night fell upon us, it started to drizzle. I was ready to call it quits. I knew the visitor wanted to ride longer, so I suggested walking Lacey to the stop sign about a half-mile down the road and back while I walked back up the driveway listening to the clippity-clop of Lacey’s hooves on the asphalt road.

When I reached the top, I started cleaning the tack area and was surprised to hear Lacey right outside the door breathing hard.

“That was quick,” I said.

“Yeah, I told Lacey to show me what she’s got, and she was great,” the visitor said. “She runs so fast.”

With my heart in my throat I asked, “You ran her on the pavement?”

“Oh yeah, she did great.”

Groan. Turns out the visitor was a “yahoo.”

I handled it with tact because I never told him not to run the horse, so essentially I was at fault. I was thankful she wasn’t hurt.

Still, I’m flabbergasted someone would run someone else’s horse without giving it a second thought. And doesn’t everyone know not to run a horse on asphalt, let alone while it was raining and dark?

What clinched it for me that the visitor was a horse-user and not a horse-lover was the upturned face I got after mentioning the need to walk the horse around a bit to cool her off. The visitor went inside while I cooled Lacey off, unsaddled, groomed her and put her back in the pasture.

Events

■   Sunday, Feb. 1 — Jennifer Verharen dressage and jumping clinic. Freedom Farm, 493 Spring Road, Agnew. Contact Michelle Glimmer at 360-301-0403.

■   Sunday, Feb. 15 —Baker Stables schooling show with judge Mike Giese. 164 Four Winds Road, Port Angeles. Contact Dana King at 360-460-7832.

■   Tuesday, Feb. 17,

5 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Peninsula chapter of Back Country Horsemen general meeting. Sequim Prairie Grange, 290 Macleay Road, Sequim.

■   Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22 — Mike Stokes reining and horsemanship clinic, Baker Stables. Contact King at 360-460-7832.

________

Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Sunday.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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