Riding a horse at a wide-open gallop can be the most freeing sense in the world.
For many, the act of merely sitting in the saddle of a horse is enough of an adrenaline rush. To be astride such a capable, sizable animal that is so accepting and willing to be a steady travel partner down the trail, why, that’s a wild enough experience for many riders (and we all know there are several types of horse people).
And I suppose that for me, at one point in my childhood, that was quite the thrill as well. But as my skills were honed and I learned to be a better rider and was mounted on more athletic animals, my eyes were opened to the sheer joy of running wide open on the back of a horse.
Now, not every situation calls for a wide-open gallop, and not all horses are equipped to travel at such a speed. But when the stars align and there’s a field (sans holes) or a beach (sans tourists) or an empty fairground with a racetrack and a willing competitor, there’s nothing quite like gettin’ it at full speed, crouched over my saddle, eyes bleary from tears born from speed, feeling all four hooves off the ground as we cover the country together.
It’s hard to justify a solid situation in which to hit full speed horseback in what we do. Usually we are riding green horses that need to be solid minded, as broke as possible and learn how to carry themselves properly both in the arena and outside. But as colts and riding horses get more broke, it’s good to get them comfortable and broke at speed as well. Even then, it’s rarely the worry-free, flat-out run that I would pursue on my little horse as a kid.
But, gosh, the occasional situation that presents itself to gallop a horse proves time and again that it’s just so much darn fun.
In movies, they often whip their horses around when they decide to go somewhere and then kick them into a flat gallop. Horse racing is a thrill in itself, just to attend and spectate. Is there very much that’s more fun than kicking to a steer wide open and dobbing a rope around his horns? And there is rarely a person who can watch a young kid run his pony around with a big grin on his face and not smile along with him. There’s just something special about the sheer power and speed that comes with riding a running horse, especially when it’s within control.
Certainly, as with anything to do with our horses, experience, intelligence and caution needs to be utilized when going fast. And for those folks who don’t see the appeal, I can completely understand that. One bad experience or a wreck gone wrong when traveling at speed can injure humans and horses alike and cause issues for the rest of their lives. In our business, we’ve actually encountered folks who feel anxious and are pursuing the feeling of being comfortable at speed. As kids, they were fearless, bold riders and happy to kick their ponies into a gallop down a stretch of sandy beach. But as adults, they’ve lost a bit of that confidence and want to find it again. That’s understandable for sure.
I’m no huge thrill-seeker, but I’ve driven my pickup a time or two beyond the speed limit. I’ve jumped off of gigantic granite boulders into deep blue pools of water, and yes, I’ve even been aboard an airplane as it soars through the sky at 35,000 feet and beyond.
But galloping my horse full-speed atop of good country is as close to flying as I believe I’ve ever felt.