Your first time reining is a little like your first time being drunk; the world is spinning, you’re going too fast, and then everything comes screeching to a halt and you’re left dizzy and rather confused.
Thankfully, rather than a crippling hangover and a need for as much bacon as you can find, all you’re left with the next day is an immediate desire to have another go.
I had a grin plastered across my face from the minute I got on board at Sovereign Quarter Horses. I had a lesson with David Deptford, while his wife Sarah was kind enough to lend me her own horse Chexy (Chex Out This Action), a 13-year-old mare imported from the USA five years ago.
We started off slowly, with David just letting me get a feel for this new style. Maybe it’s because I do a lot of one-handed hacking around the Welsh hills on my own mare, but I felt comfortable immediately — although David tells me it’s common for riders to be hesitant riding on a loose rein at first. I can see why; once we started cantering, it took me a few goes to learn how to stop and steer without touching the reins.
There is such a huge engine on a quarter horse that the speed and power did take me by surprise, but Chexy was so responsive to my slightest aid (even the unintentional ones).
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David knew I was keen to have a go at the “tricks” — the spins and the sliding stops. The first spin had me dizzy with excitement, and motion sickness, even though David told me it was only “half speed”. Watch the video to decide for yourself, and don’t miss the snigger from photographer Peter Nixon.
After a few goes, I was whizzing round one-handed, feeling like I could stay there all day, but we were already moving on to the best part of all: the sliding stop.
To say my first try wasn’t very successful would be an understatement — it took about half the length of the arena for us to stop from a slow canter.
Perhaps there’s more to this than I thought! David hopped on to show me how it’s done and I realised just how positive I needed to be.
Remounting, and being told to “get a bit cowgirl”, I started to really go for it, and the feeling was brilliant. Sarah and her friends were cheering me on from the gate, which was a massive help – there may not be any jumps, but galloping headlong towards a solid wall really gets your adrenaline going and the whooping and whistling certainly spurs you on.
All too soon we were coming to the end of my session, with that grin still locked on my face. I’m already planning my next visit, and starting a piggy bank to get my own quarter horse – watch this space…
Don’t miss the full article about trying reining for the first time in the 1 January issue of Horse & Hound magazine