When I was young, living on the farm, challenges came easily. If there was not an opportunity for an obvious challenge, we soon found one. Riding our horses before breakfast, moving the cattle from the night paddock to the day paddocks, feeding and watering a numerous amount of horses in their stables, and paddocks all provided challenges, even if none existed that day.
My mother had some chooks and a rooster, a vegetable garden, a small fruit orchard, a huge rose garden, a Ferney and the list of jobs to do and opportunities were enormous.
My father had on average a dozen working dogs. These were the most intelligent and clever dogs you would ever find. Most were small to medium sized dogs, of the Australian Kelpie Breed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Kelpie plus Bluey, the Blue Heeler.
All the dogs had their kennels lined along an internal road that ran through the middle of the training and stable facilities. The cheeky rooster tempted fate prancing around in front of the tethered dogs, or a beast that had broken out from the loading yard, a panicked horse on the loose, the challenges were endless.
We had loads of entertainment lined up for any visitors that might stumble outside the immediate house and garden area of our farm.
Most young people wanted to ride our horses, and we would always find a suitable horse that would provide us with a few minutes of entertainment. The smaller children were put on Mischief, a beautiful little black Shetland.
Mischief got his name for a good reason,he was always getting into mischief. Mischief preferred not to be ridden, although he was a perfect ride for the experienced riders like we were. It was a different story for the novice riders.
Mischief would take them straight under the willow tree that stood at the side near the fence. The willow tree had a low-lying branch that stretched horizontally across one side of the tree. This branch was about 6 inches above the height of Mischief’s back. The novice rider would not be able to control where Mischief wanted to go, so he took them immediately straight under this branch, which knocked them off his back. No child was injured, apart from their loss of pride, and short-lived euphoria of usually their first riding lesson.
No amount of sympathy and offers to get them back on the horse, would encourage them to attempt another ride. Of course this would not happen if there were adults in the vicinity, or watching the lessons. We would be the perfect host, leading the child around on Mischief, walking sedately around the grounds, the epitome of a perfect afternoon at the farm.
Mischief was happy, the prospect of having a new rider kicking and cajoling him, making him work for an hour or so, was quickly terminated in less than 10 minutes, and he was free to return to grazing. A small reward later could be anticipated.
The older visitors, usually young males would be put on a half trained young horse in the Ring Yard. We were naughty, we spent sufficient time explaining to the novice rider, what to do, and what to expect. Once on the horse we knew a few bucks and some screaming and hitting the dirt would ensure the novice rider would not return for a second round. Naturally we could only ensure this exercise was completed without our parents knowledge.
The young girls who wanted to learn to ride, were given a more kindly and thoughtful lesson. I took them in hand and had them double dink with me. They felt more comfortable this way. Clinging to my back as I rode one of our horses around the property. Of course I showed off, showing how obedient and responsive my horse would be. I explained my subtle movements and actions to guide the horse to respond to my instructions. A good half hour or more would be spent explaining what intelligent and kindly creatures horses could be, if cared for correctly. I spent most of the time walking and gently trotting the horse.
Truthfully, there would have to be a plan to end the lesson in such a way, that my life as a kindly child who would spend their time teaching other children and adults to ride horses, taking up all my free time would soon end.
I chose the softest landing ground to lose my attached rider. Usually a prolonged trot riding bareback would do it. My attached rider would simply slip sideways, sliding gently off the horse and onto the ground. The other riders, who held me so tight and had learnt to grip their thighs to hang onto the horse, were taken on a short canter. Nine times out of ten they too would fall off. It takes a certain amount of practice and rhythm to double dink and ride bareback at the canter.
Sometimes I would simply show my student riders what may happen even on a well trained horse, with an experienced rider. My horse Johnny Boy was perfect for this project. We had won many hundreds of ribbons together competing. But the secret weapon was a gallop, Johnny Boy would buck and pig root non stop. This was the best lesson to show my would be novice riders, that riding lessons at our place was not a good idea.
Look, don’t get me wrong. My parents entertained guests on a regular basis. Afternoon tea parties were popular. Inevitably there would be children at these events, and they would all want to ride the horses. If we had not employed our own plans to negate this popular idea, we would have spent all our free time giving pony rides, instead of enjoying the company of our guests. Most of our neighbours, and school friends had all ventured to learn to ride the horses at some time. They did not realise that unlike them, we had a load of jobs to do on the farm before school, after school and at weekends. Each of us had our own responsibilities regarding the care of the animals and maintenance of the farm. We had very little spare time available, and the thought of having to spend that time teaching every man and his dog to ride was not an option.
Parents be warned, there are many unscrupulous people out there, and horses totally unsuitable for learner riders. I knew a man that ran a Riding School in Melbourne,Vic. He was also a Rodeo Contractor and Horse Dealer. I know he put novice riders on any of his newly acquired horses. he laughed and told me, he soon found out if the horse had been trained for riding, or unbroken. Depending on how the horse bucked, he was also testing out new horses for his Rodeo Team. Only god knows how many injuries were sustained by the children who attended that Riding School.