It would not take more than the ten digits on my two hands to count the number of times I have been on a horse. I really love horses. Their sleekness and warm coats. There is nothing like the smell of a horse. Ruddy and wholesome like no other smell on earth.
When I see horses I have this nearly overwhelming urge to bound over and jump right on and trot off into the sunset. It is so romantic. I picture myself being like the cowboys of the old western movies. Grabbing the horn of the saddle and without even using the stirrups I just flip myself up and on and away I go. Heck I bet I could even run up from behind one and jump into the saddle. Really how hard could that be? It is done all the time on TV! But alas I know that horseback riding is not in my future much more than it has been in my past.
Here is a look at one of my many times I rode a horse. He was a big old, yes old, I was told he was about 15 years old, gentle as an island breeze, red sorrel owned by a friend of a friend. There were four of us that bright warm late spring day, going for a short ride just to give the horses some light exercise. I was about 16 and all the girls were crazy for cowboys. Just as cowboys were crazy for cowgirls. (Hey they don’t call ‘em Wrangler butts because they aren’t cute!)
So we gathered at the pens where the magnificent four horses stood ready to haul us giggling school girls out across the prairie, or in our case down an alley way, out into and up a wash, over a little mound of earth, back around a fence down the alley way and back to the pens. About a 3 or 4 mile ride. Not being all that familiar with horse etiquette and saddlery my friend got Old Red, really that was his name, ready for me to climb aboard and look like I actually knew what I was doing.
Now let me just say here that horses look really inviting, from a far. An animal that, while you are one side of a fence and he is on the other will walk over to you to happily munch away on some stray grass you’ve picked all the while he is looking hungry and friendly. But when I got up close and there was no fence between me and Old Red, he looked like a mountain. A huge, red, hairy, breathing mountain. He slowly turned his head my way, looked me right in the face with a look that conveyed, “Go ahead sweet thing, climb on up—if you dare.” My limitations at 16 were boundless, now they have huge boundaries.
I was not about to show fear, or common sense. I could just barely reach the saddle horn and as I did I raised my foot to a height that felt somewhat higher than my shoulders to gain access to the stirrup. As my ascent began I pulled and oofed myself up until my Wrangler you know what, smacked leather. As my head adjusted to the height I was reminded of flying over the patchwork quilt of the Midwest. Dang the ground was far away. Then the fun really began.
I was told Old Red never ran anymore. He was wrought with arthritis, his joints were those of an 80 year old, and he was, as is as every horse I have heard about, just as tame and calm as a new born kitten. Horses and riders head down the alleyway to get to the freedom of the wild outdoors, well really just south of town. When all of a sudden calm, quiet, sickly Old Red got a wild hair and bolted, yes bolted for the free range. With yours truly hanging on for dear life. I vaguely remember my friends hollering pull up on the reins, pull up on the reins! Well I had seen many a western movie, I know what whoa meant and how to pull up on the reins. But Old Red was having none of my screaming whoas. I’m pretty sure as he galloped at about fifty miles an hour, out the alley way across the ditch and towards a fence, he turned his head back towards me, and he was laughing. Mere inches from the fence he stopped on a dime. He was quivering with excitement. I was just quivering. My friend of course said she had never ever seen Old Red do that. I climbed down, led Old Red Back to the pen, rubbed him down and discussed with him what I presumed was his final hurrah of a ride. As I left him standing there, smelling of liniment and the ruddy outdoors, I knew it would be a very cold day before I was ever back in the saddle again.
Trina Machacek lives in Eureka, her book ITY BITS can be found on kindle. Share your thoughts and opinions with her at firstname.lastname@example.org