Once your boot is in place, you grab the saddle horn with your left hand and the back-side of the saddle with your right hand. Then you hope for a hell of a shot of adrenalin to help pull yourself upright. Simultaneously, you have to swing your right leg extra high as it goes over the saddle. Extra high means you don’t snag that leg on your damn rifle.
Suddenly you are up there. Hopefully the horse is OK with you being there and he stands steady. Once up there, there are things you need to know. First, there is a heavy rope leading from under his face back to the saddle horn. That rope is for tying the horse to things. Then there’s a pair of leather straps, one on each side of his jowls. Those are for directing him, right, left and stop. Right in front of your privates is a big saddle horn. The saddle horn is for grabbing onto, for helping with balance, for hanging on to when going up or pushing on when going downwards. On each side of the horn there are deep recesses. These are also grabbing locations. Your fingers fit into these holes very nicely to help with such trivialities as balance.
Your guide will have assured you that all the horses are gentle and they all steer very easily. Hopefully so. Once you are on the trail you will enter a battle of wits with your horse. The question is – who is really in control here? I have endured a nine hour torture test where the horse was in control. That is not a lot of fun. Coming back, I had gained control over that evil creature. I must say I almost enjoyed the trip. Horses will test you, whether they are trying to nip grass as they walk or refusing to climb a steep trail. With experience you may gain the confidence to seize control – then you become
a horseman (sort of). You and your horse can travel great distances and over difficult terrain with relative ease.
Your guide and wrangler will warn you about not sticking your boot too far into the stirrup. Very simply, this is so the horse does not kill you by dragging you to death. Nothing serious, just don’t put your boot too far into the stirrup. Hopefully the stirrups have been adjusted for your legs so you can place some of your weight on your legs as required. So you are in the saddle, toes in the stirrups, one hand holding the reigns and the other on the pommel. The string starts to move so you simply give him a slight kick in the ribs and the adventure begins.
Horses have different gaits when they travel. Walking is good. Trotting can range from not bad to outright nasty. I recently rode two horses, one absolutely beat me up and the other was quite smooth when he trotted. I have never been on a horse that broke into a run, and never will. I envy those who enjoy such riding, but since I cannot handle trotting, galloping is out of the question.
Although I am writing this with a bit of tongue in cheek I would like to make the point that horses and hunting can result in nasty injuries. Horses can get you from the trail-head to camp in enjoyable fashion. They can also rub you into every possible tree, spook at anything from shadows to grizzly bears, dump you over their heads, sides or rear ends and hurt you in ways you have never thought of.
True horsemen may scoff at what I have written, but most will admit to a close call or wreck. It’s not about “if” as much as “when” stuff happens. If you are a rookie, prepare yourself by doing as much riding as possible prior to any horseback hunt. I will share a secret. Pantyhose. Get some pantyhose and wear it under your jeans. Pantyhose eliminates chafing. Chafing is bad, very bad. This really works, trust me. Now, buying size 52-Petit pantyhose is an experience in itself, putting it on is another. And keeping your crew from knowing you have it on – that’s all part of the game. The biggest challenge is having a “pee”, but you will figure out a way.
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