Horsing around: Ohio girl does death defying tricks on horse
May 25—WATERLOO, Ohio — Fifteen-year-old Lynn Boyd brings her horse Shadow up to a full run before sliding off the side of the saddle and hanging her head down, mere inches from the steed's hooves and the dirt below.
Her parents, Liza and Dean Boyd, look on, holding their breath, eyes wide. As the horse trots down the street, Lynn pulls herself up back on the saddle and they cheer.
Seconds before, Lynn said the stunt is called "the death drag."
"It's my favorite trick," she said. "It's not my mom's favorite trick."
"I don't know if it's the name or her head so close to the ground," the worried mother said.
Lynn practically grew up in a saddle — she started trail riding when she was 2 or 3. In fact, it was horses that brought the Boyd family to Lawrence County last year, from rural Brown County just outside of Cincinnati.
For the last 10 years or so, Liza and Lynn have gone riding at Elkins' Creek Camp, right in the Wayne National Forest in Pedro. Not riding once or twice a year — practically every other weekend.
After Dean's dad passed away, the family brought the mountain to Muhammed and bought a farm in Waterloo, way up in the middle of Lawrence County, complete with a barn and pastures.
That was a year ago — it took time to get things in order; the family pretty much lived out of their camper until they could get a dumpster-full of trash out of the house and the water hooked up. The barn was just as worse for the wear — it was 3 feet of cow crap and mud inside, Lynn said.
But today, they're loving it in their patch of paradise. Lynn's gotten involved with her school and is running for an officer position at the Symmes Valley FFA.
However, Lynn's horseback acrobatics put her in a class of her own with the kids at school, who've seen pretty much everything the rural life has to offer.
"I posted a lot of videos on Instagram ... when I got friends on there, they were like 'What is this? You do trick riding?' and I was like, 'Yeah, I do.' They thought I was crazy. They didn't know what to think," Lynn said. "I just walked into school with jeans and boots on and they were like, 'Oh, she just rides horses.' No, I do flips and stuff off of them."
The funny thing is — Lynn is scared of heights.
Three years ago, she went to see her cousin do a trick riding lesson and she instantly fell in love. But it took some begging and pleading with mom and dad, because after all, she's scared of heights — Liza thought it would be a waste of $70.
Lynn had a blast — in fact, it turns out mom was the one who got scared. She even was asked to sit in the truck during the lesson because she was so beside herself.
Trick riding is dangerous — the Boyds saw one guy botch a trick and wind up getting caught under his horse. As the horse ran around the arena and kicked the rider in the head multiple times, resulting in a broken back and a brain bleed.
One can't wear a helmet trick riding, either. The helmet can catch on the saddle, resulting in injury. Liza said her daughter had a close call once, nearly breaking her neck.
"The trainer was like, 'OK, mom, no helmet, right?' I was like, 'OK,'" she said.
Besides a sprained ankle, Lynn's been able to avoid any serious injury thus far — that's in part because of the strict regime of checking tack any time she rides.
Unlike a normal saddle, a trick saddle is adorned with extra straps and weight to allow the rider to safely perform tricks without the saddle flying off. A normal saddle might weigh 10 pounds — a trick one might weigh four or five times that amount.
Part of the reason why one rider was so grievously injured is because of a strap breaking during the trick. Lynn said before getting her trick saddle (a birthday and Christmas and all other gifts for that year, Liza said), she used bandannas in lieu of the special straps.
"It's dangerous as crap, but I did it," Lynn said. "I don't encourage anyone else to do it."
It also requires physical strength. Out on the Boyds' porch, Lynn has a workout station where her father estimates she performs 300 crunches daily. The various trick riding camps she attended have required school records validating Lynn can run a mile, perform so many push ups and so many pull ups.
"You have to have strength, because when she's vaulting and stuff, she's actually doing pullups onto the saddle," Liza said.
While gear and physical fitness are integral for trick riding, none of that matters without a properly trained horse. During her training at a facility in Liberty, Indiana, the Boyds rented a horse for Lynn that was already broken in for it.
But Shadow, who Dean stressed was obtained for a very good price (read: free), ain't that horse. He's a Tennessee Walker, a trail-riding horse, and he's older than Lynn by about five years.
A horse like Shadow is trained to stop when a rider falls off. Makes sense — if a horse keeps running and running when somebody falls off, they could trample them or leave them behind.
Bob, Lynn's barrel horse, is like that. He's a quarter horse that'll run those poles like a bullet out of a rifle, but the minute Lynn leaves the saddle, he'll stop.
During a trick ride, the slower the horse goes, the harder it is to pull off the trick, Liza said. That's because its all about momentum.
Take for instance the "running man" — Lynn demonstrates it by getting Shadow to a run, then jumping off, running along beside him and hopping back on.
If the horse stops, Lynn would be flying forward, because she has momentum and the horse doesn't. While learning the tricks starts at a stand still, then a trot and finally a gallop, once learned they're actually easier at full speed, according to Lynn.
Lynn's parents and their connections in the horse world didn't think Shadow — who'd been ingrained to stop — would ever become a trick horse. Heck, a Tennessee Walker isn't really a trick horse breed — most of them are quarter horses, the Swiss Army knife of horse breeds.
After six weeks of working with Shadow, the old horse learned some new tricks.
Now Lynn's no expert — and her horse isn't, either — but she's starting to get into doing shows.
She's already done one at the Boyd County Fair Grounds for the extension office and she's set to do another at Elkins Creek Horse Camp on Saturday.
Ultimately, Lynn's goal is make it to the big stage — Dollywood, where she wants to perform in Dolly Parton's Stampede.
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