About fifteen years ago I took myself off to a riding stables to learn to ride. It wasn't my first experience of being on horseback - that was as a student, pony trekking with friends. My pony got impatient at the start of the ride, jumped a stream, causing me to lose my reins and stirrups, and proceeded to head off across the moor into the heavy mist.
Recognising the severity of my plight, I gripped the animal's mane with my fists and its body with mine, in order to stay on rather than fall off, bash my head on a granite rock and end up with hypothermia as well as concussion. Of course my posture, unbeknownst to me at that time, made the pony gallop, at full speed, for what felt like forever, until it ended up back at the yard.
Surprisingly this didn't put me off and at a later date I found myself at the riding stables for my lessons.
Interestingly, the horse they put me on was a large stallion who had a mind of his own. There was no possible way that I, as a beginner, could exercise any control, but as an Alexander technique teacher's it was interesting. The horse had very good 'use' and I clearly felt everything coming together nicely as he used his muscles efficiently.
The following week they put me on a little horse who's use was so bad it felt like being in a car crash. The animal slouched its head, collapsed its back and shambled awkwardly from side to side as it walked.
Both experiences were uncomfortable and I later learned that the stallion had put its previous owner in a coma. I stopped going shortly after that.
My most recent horse riding activities, at Cholwell Farm on Dartmoor, have been at the other end of the spectrum - relaxing, well organised and really enjoyable. I'm pleased to say that the horses there are in lovely condition - well trained and well looked after.