A crash course on horses

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I used to think I knew a lot about horses, or at least more than the average person. It wasn’t until I began asking questions like, “Why do some horses have spots,” that it hit me I know very little about what it is to be a horse enthusiast.

With Suffolk’s Garden Week tour coming up April 17, I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to the homeowners and tour coordinators to gather information. And now that my days are filled with conversations about bridles and stables, I realize I know absolutely nothing about horses.

I’ve always appreciated horses and thought they are beautiful, majestic animals. I even took a few horseback-riding lessons when I was eight, but obviously, nothing in my studies stuck.

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I spent Thursday morning taking pictures of Windy River Farm, one of the four locations that are part of the Garden Week tours.

Windy River owners Teddie and Harold Warner took me around their property, showing me their home, stables and pastures.

As I toured Windy River with them, I took the opportunity to ask Teddie and Harold every question I could think of.

They were incredibly patient with me. If I asked, they answered, without a hint of judgment.

“How much do the horses eat?”

At Windy River, the horses are fed grain twice a day – the amount of grain depends on the horse. Of course, horses that spend their time in the pasture can munch grass all day.

“Can all breeds be spotted?”

There are spotted horses within breeds, but there is also a spotted breed, the American Paint.

“What is the difference between a Western saddle and an English saddle?”

Teddie only needed to show me a Western saddle, which is big, bulky and heavily decorated, and an English saddle, which is sleek and subtle, for me to get the picture.

“Is every horse able to participate in any of the different events in competitions?”

It depends on the horse’s skills, Harold said. It’s up to them what they are good at.

Even after my crash course, I still feel I have so much to learn, and if my Google searches are any indication, I’m still no expert.

Not to mention the fact that I didn’t even crack the surface on the specifics of horse competitions.

There is so much to know about the animals and the people who love them, and it now seems to me there is no better opportunity to get a clear view of the horse community than to be able to go to these properties and ask the owners, trainers and caretakers themselves.

If you are like me and want to learn more, the Garden Week Tour this year might be the perfect opportunity with its focus on homes with stables and horses. Be sure to check it out.