Saturday, July 3, 2010
Horses in Alaska?
It always amazes me to hear how surprised people are when they learn how many horses and horse activities we have in Alaska. And these aren't just people from the Lower 48, the people right here in Alaska are also unaware of the horse population. The types and sizes of horses vary in Alaska, from the 32" high miniature horse to the 17 hand (68") Clydesdale, and all kinds and sizes in between.
Some people might question what you would want with a miniature horse only to find out that they make excellent companions, are easy to care for and can pull a full grown adult in a cart with ease. The Clydesdale on the other hand takes much more effort and cost to feed and clean up after, but their calm and willing disposition make them suitable for riding or pulling heavier loads or plow fields.
Quarter horses and Arabians are two of the most popular breeds in Alaska, but they are greatly out-numbered by the grade, or mixed breed horses. Each having their own place in the horse world depending on what their human counterpart would like to do with them.
Trail riding through the rugged Alaska terrain can be the challenge of choice, but horse shows featuring dressage, hunter/jumpers, barrel racing, western and English riding are held throughout the state with the Kenai Peninsula being the hot spot for rodeos. Most events are held between the months of May through September, but riding goes on year round.
There are at least 22 indoor riding arenas is Alaska, but the majority of folks ride outdoors. While the rule of thumb for riding temperatures vary slightly, most will agree that if it is under 10 degrees it's best not to take your horse out. They fare in the cold very well, but with the exertion it takes to carry extra weight their respiration rate would increase and you have to be concerned about their lungs.
Growing up in Anchorage with a horse gave me all kinds of activities to do, keeping me out of trouble. I can assure you that without my horse I would have been a high risk teen. It was more than just keeping busy, it was having the companionship of a non-judgemental, warm creature. You could confide in your horse and know that your secret would be safe. You could experience the joy of traveling at a pace that only riding a four legged creature could provide. The beauty and silence of riding through trails could be exciting or calming depending on where you were and the speed you traveled at.
Having control over an animal that weighs half a ton can give you confidence, and who couldn't use a little more of that. Hugging a miniature horse can take your stress away in a heart beat. Horses and humans came together many years ago. Today they remain as co-workers, friends and companions even here in Alaska.