This week’s installment of Friends with Finesse features my life-long friend Cindy Metelak. Cindy and I first met in the nursery of our church, although I don’t think either of us remembers the event. Our families vacationed together for many years, water skiing on Lake Billy Chinook in Central Oregon.
I remember Cindy always having a love of horses, and her fondest wish came true when her parents bought her a horse for her 11th birthday. She vividly remembers her dad putting a saddle on Katie to demonstrate how it was done.
“Roughly two minutes after he was sitting on the horse, the saddle slid down the side leaving Dad hanging underneath her,” recalls Cindy. “Makes me laugh every time I think of it.”
Her love of riding horses has continued over the last 40 years, and she has owned her current two horses, Ctzar and Gracie since 2006.
Q: What’s the best thing about horseback riding?
A: The best thing about horseback riding for me is being outside. I have traversed through many areas I would have not have reached by foot. I never get tired of the beautiful countryside; the flowers, birds, deer, valleys, creeks, rivers. We are so blessed with God’s great landscape – it never grows old.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake/misconception people make about horseback riding?
A: The biggest mistake/misconception is a fear of falling off, and with good reason. It hurts to hit the ground! However, if you are properly saddled and seated, falling off isn’t an easy thing to do. Additionally, most people believe you communicate by yelling and/or using the reins. Learning how to hold the reins is very important. Pulling hard on the reins (which is a common reaction) can cause the horse considerable pain and miscues for the horse.
Q: What are your top three tips for those interested in learning to ride?
1: Learning to ride a horse is not that difficult, as long as you approach it in the right way. The correct approach is that the horse wants to cooperate and already knows all it needs to know about being ridden, and that you are the one who needs to learn how to ride. Learning the ‘language’ of horses and learning to ride is a hugely rewarding activity. There’s nothing quite like the sense of command and cooperative action you get once you’ve learned enough to let the horse know what you want.
2: Follow your trainer’s instructions about how and where to sit on the saddle and how to hold your legs (keeping your heels down), as well as what to say. All these things communicate something to the horse. Horses (particularly those used for beginning and casual riders) are often ridden by a lot of different people and it’s a little bit unreasonable to expect them to learn a different set of signals for each new rider. Your beginner horse will certainly have a docile manner, be forgiving, relatively calm and unexciting, and through years of experience, learned to ignore any and all unfamiliar signals without fretting about what you might have meant.
3: You may be genuinely excited about riding and have a passion to learn quickly and excel. However, you must temper your zeal, slow down, relax, think and be patient with yourself (and your horse). Develop an attitude of respect and compassion for your friend and partner, the horse. If you give him a chance and work with him, he will teach you how to ride in due time.
I hope the above has encouraged you to have a go at horseback riding. I think everyone should experience it at least once in their life, as it’s really a rewarding and enjoyable activity.
Cindy and her husband Bob have a blended family that includes five children and eight grandsons (the latest born this week!). Their first granddaughter is due to arrive in October. In addition to their two horses, they also have a cat and two dogs.
My horseback riding *finesse level:
Novice Advanced beginner Competent Proficient Expert
What’s your horseback riding finesse level?
*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)