As promised, in the next two weeks I am taking a look back at some of the great events I have attended in the last year. Growing up in South Dakota I was blessed to have easy access to horses. Family members and friends owned horses so even though I grew up in a small town, it wasn’t hard to find a place to ride. I have been bit, kicked, and taken in a river (it was a pony), but I was undaunted in my love of horses.
I always felt a connection with horses. As a child at Girl Scout camp at Oak Lake they had an old Appaloosa named fittingly, Apples. I was told Apples was the most difficult horse and not a top choice for riding. Apples had gotten old and ornery. To me, that meant that must be my horse. I spent my week talking softly in Apples’ ear and calmly riding my horse. And it worked. I have never forgotten Apples, and wished I could have taken him with me at the end of the week. I think horses have an amazing sense of who to trust. That gentle touch upon introduction is enough to solidify the relationship.
That brings me to one of my favorite events from the last year, a barrel racing competition put on by Hope Reins. The Hope Reins organization provides riding opportunities for disabled children. As I mentioned, horses have a keen sense about people and when a child with a disability is brought out for a ride, the patience, and understanding of a horse has an amazing therapeutic effect. The kids feel accomplishment and enjoy the companionship when they learn to ride these beautiful creatures. And they fall in love with their new friend. Just like I did with old Apples.
The barrel racing competition was a fundraiser for Hope Reins and included a variety of riders of all ages and skill levels. Caring people came together for a day of fun and to support this great cause. If you want to experience a community and culture within South Dakota, I recommend you look for a rodeo, county fair or a barrel racing event like this one. Those dedicated to their horses are living a lifestyle, not just enjoying a hobby. From clothing to vehicle choices you can tell who’s hardcore.
Barrel racers attempt to take their horse around three barrels as quickly as possible without knocking over a barrel. Well trained horses keep tight to the barrel, leaning themselves and the rider in close, and after that third barrel they know it’s time to go all out to the finish line.
As a casual rider, I realize the ability to shift, balance, and respond to that horse takes skill and practice. I also know if you ever ride an old barrel racing horse you should be ready on the ride back for them to try to “race for the finish line.” I remember as a teenager an old, retired quarter horse who though we should run like the wind every time we headed back to the farm. Apparently she was all business.
I hope you’ll check out Hope Reins on facebook. They often post about the healing power of horses; upcoming events and camps; and horses that are up for adoption and need a home. I hope this summer to spend another afternoon photographing these beautiful athletes that know how to partner with and trust their human companions.