by Cassidy Gillard
I’ve always been intrigued by horses. The first time I rode a horse was when I was eight years old on a family road trip from my home in Vermont to the wild west. The horse I rode was old and slow, and I was fine with that. Even after six summers at the ranch, the last time I rode a horse was in 2011 on an all-staff ride. The idea that I am not in control of the creature that I am sitting on terrifies me I have been told by every wrangler in the history of my time at the ranch that I am in control of it. I just haven’t ever been able to convince myself that a horse and I would make a good team.
I am completely mystified by the beauty of horses. I love watching them and petting them, and I have had some pretty hilarious “conversations” with horses about the weather, or the food that I’m giving them, or the way they are interacting with each other. Once, I was staying at a ranch in Wyoming where the road to my tent was parallel to the pasture. Every time I walked by, all of the horses would come over and I would pet them and talk to them. This particular corral had an electric fence, and you would think that after being shocked once I would at least be more careful, but the peace of mind that the horses gave me made me forget about the horrible shock I would receive if I wasn’t careful. In the ten days that I spent there, I was shocked twelve times, but the number of times that I felt totally at peace talking to and petting the horses was infinite.
I love teaching experienced horseback riders to mountain board. I always tell the horse focus groups are “my favorite” groups to teach. They usually deny it, and of course there are things about every group that are my favorite, but to a certain degree it is true. The core strength and balance that they develop sitting on horses all of the time is incredible, and incredibly helpful in mountainboarding. The trust and confidence that they are able to build with the horses is beautiful and gives me confidence that they will trust me as a teacher. I have known many children with special needs who have done equine therapy, and the amount of physical strength, confidence, trust, balance, even social skills that they gain throughout the process is amazing. I am lucky that horses are so present in my life at the ranch. In the fall when I got home from working in town, I would pull into the parking lot and the whole gang of them would be grazing by the fence, and I would go hang out with them for a minute before heading to my cabin. They gave me just a little bit of extra calmness and love before bed, and I would turn in for the night feeling grateful for those beautiful creatures.