There’s a difference between hobby and passion, according to Melissa Robinson, proud horse-owner and caretaker. “Riding horses is a lifestyle. Hobbies are something you give up after a while, not a way of life,” she says as she brushes all the dirt off of Titan’s brown coat; preparing him for their afternoon ride.
She reaches down into a bucket and pulls out another type of brush; calling the next one a ‘stiffer’ brush that really helps smooth out his coat, while the first one was mainly to remove all the dirt from his body. She uses a series of four brushes, each of them serving a different purpose. She emphasizes the importance of making sure all the dirt that’ll be underneath the saddle is completely eliminated, otherwise it can cause skin irritation for the horse.
She explains that the total preparation time before saddling up lasts about 15 minutes. “Next thing to do is scrape out his hooves with a pick,” Melissa says as she squats next to Titan’s right front hoof. She taps his knee-cap gently and he lifts it for her. This step is necessary and important so that the horse remains comfortable during the ride. Dirt and rocks stuck in the hooves can lead to hoof damage, which can be painful for the horse. Maintaining care for horses’ hooves is crucial, it is necessary that they are trimmed every five weeks; it is a painless process, unless the wrong thing gets clipped.
When the picking is complete, it’s then time to dress up the horse. After she lays down the saddle pad, the bulky saddle is gently placed on top. Saddles vary in size, shape and style; they must fit the needs of the rider and the shape of the horse. “I spent about $4,000 on my custom-made western saddle,” says Melissa, “It is very pretty though,” she giggles.
Melissa then straps on the ‘girth’ to one side of the saddle, walks around the horse with her hand on his bum, reaches underneath his enormous belly, and attaches the girth to the other side of the saddle. She describes that this is what keeps the saddle in place, so it is extremely important that it’s as tight as possible. And lastly, she puts on the bridle. She slides the bit into his mouth and pulls the reins over his ears, laying them lightly upon his withers. The horse is now ready to ride.
As she leads him out into the pasture, the sun is blazing upon their backs. She mounts the horse and gives him a gentle nudge and they’re off. Circling the arena, she warms him up by flexing his head side to side; making sure that he is ‘giving to the bit’ properly, again for the horse’s comfort. Their rhythm is natural, Titan’s breath is heavy.
She started riding when she was three, got her first horse at age 12, was a part of a 4H club from 12-18 and participated in her high school’s equestrian team for two years. “For me, going to the barn has always been a safe-haven. When I was younger, home wasn’t always a happy place with my parents; so riding was always a healthy outlet, and still is today,” Melissa says. “It’s my higher-power, it’s where I feel at peace the most.”
They speed up, they slow down, her focus stares straight into the sunset ahead. She rides as much as she can, for as long as she wants. Nothing matters, not style, not time, nothing. “Everyone rides differently; we all have our own methods of madness you know.”