Dogs worship humans. Cats despise us. Horses will meet your eye as you approach, and make up their minds what they think of you (the results of which will be clear as you ride them).
This was my birthday present from CJ, and it was exactly as excellent as I remembered from distant childhood memories (I had friends with horses for a while). Also, it definitely counts as research for my steampunk book.
This was my horse – Max.
As you can see, we hit upon a simply stunning location – and the staff instantly became some of my favourite people. The main lady, Janice, is smart and sarcastic and I can’t imagine her anyplace not surrounded by ducks, cats, dogs and horses (it would be too much of a shame for the animals). Our riding companion was a real country boy (which to me is fantastically exotic). Both CJ and I know we are city folk through and through, and it was great to talk to someone who would be as sickened and uncomfortable in our lives as we would be in his. It was absolutely clear that the quality of our experience was a direct result of the competence and horse knowledge of the staff. These people are passionate about what they do (and so laid back we spent about three times as much time there as we expected – loving every minute).
This is not something I’ve been paid to endorse – it’s something too brilliant to keep to myself. (These guys are emphatically a different company to the Pender Lea operating at Thredbo.) It was about a half hour drive from Merimbula. Here are all their details:
Pender Lea Trail Rides
Tantawanglo Lane, Candelo NSW 2550 (6km north of Candelo)
Phone: 02 6493 2862
Mobile: 0427 048 636
Web: www.penderleahorserides.com.au [which is having issues at the moment]
[Editorial note made in 2013: There is significant controversy about this company, including dozens of allegations of animal abuse as well as assaults on people – see comments for details.
Editorial note 2014: The owner has now been convicted of a long list of crimes against animals – see comments for details.]
Horses to suit all standards of riders. Some of the rides available:
- Twilight ride between 5:00pm to 7:00pm.
- Day rides available by booking only.
- Pony Rides for the little people in the family.
- Catering for families, small exclusive groups or large corporate groups.
Horses are visually stunning; a mix of calm and powerful, with daunting size (and bearing; cows are a similar size but no-one describes cows as “noble”) and very visible muscles beneath short fur. They tend to shuffle or stamp a foot periodically and/or swish their tail or shake their head. They snuffle, snort (especially in frustration), whinny (especially in greeting), and neigh. They are hotter than humans to touch, and soft like velvet.
The sensation of having them eat from one’s hand is quite dry and breathy. Their lips are giant and firm (unlike human lips, which are soft and mould to other objects). And they look mighty fine in water.
Walking on a horse is quite leisurely and comfortable, although the four-legged gait is just a little odd. If you fall asleep, you will fall off. Otherwise (unless your saddle is too loose) it is quite difficult to fall off. The reins are no good for balance – just steering. You grip with your knees – using unfamiliar muscles that made us both sore.
Riding a trotting horse is more difficult than any other step – it’s extremely bumpy. You need to get into the syncopated rhythm, and use the stirrups to go up and down with the horse.
A canter (or slow gallop) is exhilarating as well as being quite smooth. If you start to slide off (most likely due to attempting to turn the horse, or if the horse turns itself or leaps an obstacle), you probably won’t be able to correct yourself unless you’re moderately competent (my foot fell out of one stirrup, and that was fine). It feels wonderfully smooth (if you sit back in the saddle and flow with the steps) and fast – like flying, but with the exciting immediacy of being close to the ground.
Getting on a horse is a little like climbing into a tall vehicle while knowing it may or may not move, but a confident (and reasonably tall) person can get on first go using a stirrup. Falling off a horse generally involves a slide to one side or another, a brief trip downwards as the horse exits stage left – then a bruising hit on the shoulder, hip, or side (unless there are complications). Neither of us fell off (CJ had never ridden a horse before).
The strong smell of horse is about 10% Human Male Who Needs A Shower; 50% Leather; and 40% wet dog. It sticks to everything – clothing, humans, saddles, blankets – for days or years afterwards (depending how well they can be washed). So long as you’re outdoors, it smells wonderful (in much the way that freshly-cut grass smells good).
If you haven’t ridden a horse, you REALLY should. We rode for an hour and a half, and it cost $45 each.
Here’s a video that makes our canter look a lot slower than it really is:
Some awesomenesses that are fast approaching:
Karaoke (oh f–foccacia)
Hot air balloon