Lessons from a Horse

Janiqueel and Mr C are introduced to a horse and to the world of animal lessons.

We have almost forgotten how strange a thing it is that so huge and powerful and intelligent an animal as a horse should allow another, and far more feeble animal to ride upon its back.

Peter Gray

Not knowing what to make of that huge odd-smelling creature, Mr C was nonetheless eager to touch the brown flank and listen to the animal breathe, snort, and neigh. This was something brand new! Imagine if you can, what a child experiences upon meeting this massive friend. Paul McCartney says, “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.” That’s true for small boys as well. 

Ponymomammy (gotta love her name, right?) writes in an article, “Sometimes it seems that the biggest lessons horses teach us have nothing to do with riding.” I could see Mr C absorb those lessons in the first few minutes of making his acquaintance with this big new friend “Jack”.

At first, he was leery of even touching the large flank. Slowly, though, with help from Mama, he touched it and was rewarded with a novel tactile sensation. In a minute, he was reaching out on his own, gaining confidence by the second and feeling pride in doing so.  Once assured that he was in no danger, the lad was happy to be lifted and dropped on the high back of the animal. He held the reins. He used the stirrups for his feet. He was happy to be led down the path. This big creature was the boss here and the boy knew it. Trepidatious at first, he soon relaxed a bit and let the horse be led as the young equestrian swayed gently to and fro. He was learning that there are boundaries where a large animal (or any animal, for that matter) is concerned. With huge eyes, the young horseman watched the guide and Mama (riding “Ruby”) as they calmly interacted with the ponies.

I suppose there are more poignant experiences than watching a young child interact with an animal for the first time. On that sunny morning at the Gallop Stable in Pasir Ris, however, I couldn’t think of a happier tableau than the one we were a part of.


Like Mr C’s pony-steed, Jack and my Ruby, most of the horses at Gallop Stables are ex-racehorses having put their heady days of intense competition behind and settled into the quiet, happy life of teaching lessons to riders young and old. These horses are well-treated and it shows in their healthy coats and accommodating dispositions. Content with this phase of their equine lives, the horses make excellent teachers. 

As was Mr C, the youngest riders at Gallop Stables are introduced to ponies. I’m sure all the ponies are well-trained and mannerly, but with our friends, Jack and Ruby, we formed a real bond. I think we were hooked. Hooked on the experience of riding a horse and of interacting with an animal. Those are life-lessons that transfer from the back of a horse to the playground to the world at large. Confidence, gentility, kindness, leadership, and a sense of self.  From the back of Jack!

It’s time for a four-week course at Gallop Stables. According to Jill at the Pasir Ris Stables, that entails:

  • Bonding with the horses/ponies.
  • How to approach safely
  • How to understand safety walking, working or riding a horse
  • Safe mounting and dismounting
  • Secure seating and riding posture
  • Proper handling of reins and hands positions
  • Basic and safe control of the horse
  • Communication between the horse and the rider on the ground and when seated
  • Parts of the horses and the equipment and its uses.

The Stables have been in operation for fifteen years. In that time they have contributed to the community by providing free lessons for underprivileged and special needs riders. Horses who have passed into their dotage are housed in retirement areas where they can still interact with human visitors.

So many lessons to be learned at Gallop Stable

Writing and research help from JKJ.

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