My outride with Aiyoka: again, it’s all about trust

AiyokaAs several experienced riders have told me, mares can be quite moody. I had my own first-hand experience with a somewhat grumpy Aiyoka on a sunny Thursday morning before we went on my first outride at The Whole Horse. I am not sure who had pissed her off, or why her ears were back, but everyone agreed as we were tacking up, she was just being a bit of a ‘bitch’. It pains me to use such a word on a blog that first and foremost deals with horses in a compassionate manner, but I’m sure Kleintjie, whose butt was nipped at a couple times, would agree. There was no need to panic, as I soon won Aiyoka over with some apples and tender love and care, and soon begun our great adventure along the Disa River.

Aiyoka is an otherwise delightful and sweet pony. She is white with a dappled grey rump I’ve spent much time on the farm admiring. We had a chuckle about her mood being related by my objectifying her ass and the laugh helped sooth my nerves about not only 1) Getting on a new horse but 2) Going for my first trail ride in 8 years. It was only when I realised I was nervous, that being nervy would only make the situation worse. If I didn’t have trust in myself, how could I expect Aiyoka to? I breathed in and out, soothed her between the eyes and was happy to see them close just a little indicating she was at ease. I reassured myself I was going to have a great experience, and we did!

Off we go!

Tara, who wrote about her multiple day-long trail rides and how to prepare, lead us on our outride. She had explained to me that similarly in the way a person who’s ready and waiting to go out somewhere while they’re friends are still getting ready might become a bit flustered, so do to horses. I loved her very human analogy and appreciated her taking the time to help me understand horse behaviours that truly aren’t too different from our own. Since writing about my first lesson three weeks ago, this was my first time getting back on a horse. An outride might seem like a daunting prospect to some, but my affinity with these beautiful creatures and trust in Tara as a leader was all the foundation I needed to venture out of the farm.

We left the property, and soon found the trail along the river. We passed farm after farm as we strolled down the path. Tara lead on Kleintjie, I followed with Aiyoka, and Nikita trailed close behind on Romy. Now here’s what I find serendipitous: I was not the only one learning a new skill. Kleintjie struggles with leading (as detailed in his story) though Tara did an excellent job helping him overcome his fear, and Romy, being in high spirits and keen to trot or canter, struggled to simply walk calmly behind us, so I felt a comradery as we were all learning something new together.

Serenity and silliness

The ride would have been effortless if not for Aiyoka’s unyielding desire to eat all the appetizing flora in site. Apart from having to reign her in every now and again from the various grasses, I was at ease. Delightful sun shone down on us between partial bits of shade and I couldn’t have pictured a more serene ride if I’d tried. Initially, it was hard not to indulge Aiyoka every time she leaned down to nibble some grass. Believe me, she’s not starved, just perhaps a little indulged and was testing me to see what I’d allow her to do. The last thing I wanted was her getting annoyed that I was controlling her too much and not allowing her the simple pleasure of river-side grass, but we soon found a balance and I learned to steer her away when I could feel she was heading to something particularly luscious. It was an exercise in self-trust to see if I could keep Aiyoka on our path. Again, I must reiterate, that the trust, if it starts with me, will give my horse assurance and make any work we do easier.

As we headed back, we crossed over the Disa River and I was amused by the delight with which the horses entered the river. They pawed at the water playfully with their hooves, splashing almost like children in a bath. I was charmed to witness such personality and silliness and their delightful behaviour had me giggling and also gave them a chance to cool off in in the warm summer morning.

Post-ride hug with Pocahontas, another cute pony on the farm.

Wrapping it up

We headed back with ease. Once we had entered the property of the farm again, I even managed to take the lead and steer Aiyoka back to where we had started; leaning forward as we went slightly uphill, back as we went down again, and through the gates. As I swung off her saddle and landed gracefully back on the ground, I was filled with a new sense of confidence and security.

I am loving every piece of information I am learning about horses. I have a deep appreciation to everyone on the farm who has the patience to teach and guide me and am filled with gratitude to be forming relationships with the various animals and people who work at The Whole Horse. I look forward with anticipation for the next time I am fortunate enough to ride, or even just be next to and stroke these magical creatures we call horses.


Words by Thandi Segall

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