From bike to beast; What can a horse possibly bring to the table?

By David Talley | Published Saturday, February 4, 2017

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While I’ve addressed in a previous column that New Year’s resolutions often go unfulfilled, I left open the option of setting loosely-worded goals for the new year.

HORSIN’ AROUND – Racey Burden and David Talley took a trail ride through NRS Ranch Thursday. It was David’s first time to ride a horse, and he did not fall off. Submitted photo

Rather than resolving to wake up early each morning to exercise, I’ve just been trying wake up when my alarm goes off and taking at least part of the day to go outside, hopefully more than I did last year. So far, it’s been successful, and I’d say my outlook has improved. (It’s good to pat yourself on the back sometimes.)

Continuing on the theme of trying new things in the new year and getting outside more, Racey and I took on the task of trying out each other’s favorite hobbies this week. Wednesday morning we went on a short bicycle ride (my hobby) and Thursday we were gifted the opportunity to ride a few friendly horses (Racey’s hobby) around the NRS Ranch south of Decatur.

As an insider watching someone try cycling for the first time, it’s terrifying. While I never really thought Racey would wreck, I did feel responsible for making sure things went mostly OK on the ride. And that’s about where I would rate the experience – mostly OK.

We set up one of my bicycles to fit Racey, swapping out competition pedals that require clipping in and out to traditional flat pedals and lowering the seat to adjust for the height difference. I also stuck a spare tube, a few snacks and a phone in my pockets for a lesson on which things cyclists should aways carry.

The bike never really fit her like I had hoped it would, so I guess the takeaway here is to make sure your bicycle is adjusted correctly before trying out cycling this year. It’s pretty crucial, even over short distances and is the difference is huge in terms of whether or not you’re actually enjoying the ride. I lent her an older helmet (please wear a helmet), and we headed north, riding about two miles to the Farm Road 730 intersection and two miles back. For context, I usually ride 20 to 30 miles daily to train for competitions.

The ride out was mostly OK, though I have to point out that a flock of buzzards eyed us pretty closely, which felt ominous. At the halfway point it became apparent that I hadn’t packed everything I needed because we had no water. I really hadn’t thought about bringing any for such a short ride, but when Racey had to sit down on the road for a break, I realized my mistake. Fortunately, she didn’t pass out, and the buzzards didn’t get any ideas. We rolled back home slowly, only to be accosted by a barking dog. This is where I feel Racey really got the Wise County cycling experience. There are a lot of dogs here, and most of them hate bicycles. While it usually takes me several profane verbal threats and some angry yelling to send dogs back into their yards, Racey got it to tuck tail on the first try. She might have a future in the sport.

The weather this week couldn’t have been better for these adventures. Wednesday was the type of beautiful morning you hope to get on the bike – bright and clear with a slight breeze and temperatures in the lower 60s. Thursday’s gloomy skies, stiff wind and 40-degree temperatures really added to the cowboy experience of riding around the NRS Ranch.

Most young Texans, when they travel out of the state, will get asked if they ride a horse to school. While most will truthfully answer, “no,” I get to add to the answer.

Until Thursday, I had never ridden a horse. The idea never occurred to me. In fact, I can’t think of a single situation in my lifetime that would have been enhanced by the presence of a horse. My family of outdoor enthusiasts love hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and even gardening, but horses have never been a part of our life. That said, I see the appeal.

A big part of my goals this year has been to treasure my time outside more. Even if I’m just outside to cover an event for work, I’ll always take a second to breathe in and out and think, “I am not at my desk right now. I am not at my desk right now.” The right experience on horseback can add to that. We rode through several pastures mostly in solitude, without being passed by vehicles or even distracted by phones. Not many bike rides can compare to that.

Before this week, the newsroom had several plans in place to get me on a horse for this column, but I’m glad we went with his one. My horse, Peaches, was one of the most patient animals I’ve ever met. She handled my wariness about being up so high and even followed our guide without much prompting. While I’d originally been pretty sure I wanted a helmet for the ride, Peaches never made me feel like I needed one. That’s more than I can say about my own bike-handling skills, which have sent me to the hospital three times.

Directing Peaches was an odd experience, though. While she handled verbal and rein commands really well, picking a heading felt like running all of my decisions by a third party, who was mostly OK with them.

Finally, I’ll offer two beginners tips for those planning to try horseback riding in the new year. First, if your hands get cold while riding, horses act as natural heat generators and patting them on the neck is a good way to warm back up. Second, horses are covered in hair. Bring a change of clothes if you’re going straight to the office from your ride.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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