Maybe it was the expression of wonder on the faces of small children that best captures the fun of the visit of the Horse Simulators to the Georgian Mall in Barrie, Ontario last week. In that moment when they first spotted them, eyes grew wide, little arms pointed, and mother or father were almost invariably asked if they could have a ride.
Or, perhaps the fun was captured best by the look of curiosity as these same children came a little closer, the awe of discovering something new, that looked so entrancing, sketched on their faces? Or was it the smile that would simply not go away when they rode as far as their “mechanical horse” would take them? Or, was it best captured by the insistence of the youngest of our riders to keep riding, not wanting the ride to ever end?
On the other hand, maybe the wonder that surrounds the idea of horses was captured among the memories of older ones, sharing their riding experiences from their younger years. One woman, for example, described her first and only time when she rode in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains.
Or, in the end, was it best captured by the interest of those who already ride, as they learned about the use of the Horse Simulator as a tool to improve their confidence and performance.
The fascinating thing about all of this is that the Horse Simulator brought something for everyone.
A real horse can, of course, have an immense effect on the life of someone who is able to spend even a little time at the barn. The horse often has a strong and positive effect on the life of an individual who rides, but the same can also be said even for those who circle the idea of riding and spend time on the ground, walking with a horse in the arena or field, or even simply working in the barn and mucking out stalls. The interaction with, and care of, horses seems to be good for the soul. These activities can nurture and ground an individual who is open to it. Your boots get muddy, your jeans dirty. But in the process, you get a little closer to the earth. You come to have an appreciation for the earthbound honesty of the horse and its beauty and gentle power. It is a connection with what is real and present and grounded, rather than what is virtual and absent.
Part of the mission of Red Scarf Equestrian (RSE) is to make the equestrian world and the benefits of interaction with the horse more easily accessible for those who might otherwise find it difficult. To this end, RSE, in partnership with South Algonquin Trails, recently brought two Horse Simulators to the Georgian Mall where they performed a kind of ambassadorship. The Simulators were, in a way, mechanical ambassadors of an activity that can bring great physical and mental health benefits to people of all ages. They served as ambassadors, too, symbolically speaking, of the countryside to the city, of open fields to city streets. The Simulators stood for these places and ideas and values even to those who did not even approach or ask questions, or have a ride, but who simply took pictures or just smiled as they walked by. To be sure, any way you look at it, these mechanical horses were difficult to ignore.
Every horse tells a story. And it seems that every Horse Simulator has a story too and has, moreover, the capacity to evoke stories about its live counterpart. The Horse Simulators garnered a great deal of interest and evoked a great number of stories from the present and yesteryear. It is also of note that the interest in horses was expressed by individuals of all ages. Older ones had treasured stories of riding in faraway places. Others had stories of taking riding lessons as children. The dream of returning to riding was a prominent theme. The dream of sorting out things in the present to be able to return to riding came up more than once. Teachers dropped by who saw the potential in the Simulators for learning for their young students.
Still, beyond the symbolism and ambassadorship, the simulation of horse riding itself is certainly a key aspect of the Horse Simulators’ purpose and role. A great deal of interest was manifested in them for this very reason. The fundamental premise here is to provide a machine which takes the guess work out of one half of the rider-horse equation. The Simulator is perfectly predictable. It will not spook or buck. It is not affected if there is a loud noise nearby. It will keep its cantor or trot steady, rhythmically, irrespective of what goes on around it. In this way the rider can concentrate on what they are doing, on how they are riding, on their own positioning and the directions that they give to the Horse Simulator, in direct imitation of the directions they would give to a real horse. All of this means that the Horse Simulator is a way for the rider, young or old, to grow in their confidence and then take that confidence into the arena or field.
Parents who see the value of riding in the life of a child or young person expressed their appreciation for the presence of the Simulators as a way to nurture the interest of young persons in the entire experience of learning to ride and take care of a real horse. It teaches the child to be responsible and to experience the value of work. The presence of Horse Simulators in a mall thus reached through the barrier of the city-countryside divide.
Still, there is more. For those who suffer from disabilities there is also a benefit. Indeed, the Horse Simulator is an effective way to assist those with physical disabilities to improve their core strength and balance. The experience of riding in such a controlled environment makes this an effective way to benefit those with physical and mental disabilities and to provide a means to enhance their engagement with the world.
The Simulators conveyed the message that the world of the horse holds a very special place in the heart of many people. It is our belief that the horse does not have to become a relic of a simpler past and accessible by only a small group. By our interest and commitment to the horse we ensure its relevancy in a world which is in such a technological hurry. We need it as a touchstone to ground us and make the screen a little less omnipresent. In this way the horse remains relevant to children and teens and young adults and allows them to feel grounded in their love of, and responsibility to, an animal that asks them to be gentle and honest with the horse and themselves.
RSE invites you to see a Preview of our 2020 Signature Scarf created in partnership with Maison Malfroy and Ellen Cameron at the Artist Project Toronto on Saturday, February 22nd.
RSE also invites you to view how scarves are styled in France!