Note: I was ill all last week and sadly unable to,write, so this post comes much later than usual. I’m better now, have a better disposition, and can try to pull it off.
It started with Muffin.
When I was eleven, my mother thought it a good idea to teach me to ride horses, maybe in hopes I could actually compete in equine events of shows. She signed me up with a riding school with special training for young riders, like me. We lived in New England, so these were eastern horses with eastern gear (or tack, as they say). In a trot you’re taught to “post,” which means rising up in the stirrups to the rhythm of the horse.
Things went fine the first few lessons, and then the lead trainer decided to put me on Muffin, a mare who was apparently gentle, and led me out to an enormous field with apple trees here and there. Then she left, saying “have a great ride!” At eleven, I was alone with a horse I’d never ridden in a huge field of several acres. I walked the horse for a few steps, then goaded it into a trot. The next thing I knew, Muffin took off like a cannonball at a full gallop and all the rein work and “Whoas!” meant nothing to her. She headed for an apple tree with low-hanging branches hoping to dump me off by clotheslining me. I ducked my head way down, just missing a low branch, and Muffin continued to roar on as if chasing bad guys in a western movie. In time, she knew I was intent on staying on her, and slowed down. I got her back to the barn, told my story, and the head trainer insisted Muffin had never acted that way before. Muffin Schmuffin. She should have been named Torpedo.
And the rest of them…
Yours truly in western Montana, early 1970s. Horse was great, barn needed some work. Spent a whole day with this horse, had a ball.
Generally, I like horses and am not nervous with them. I do respect them – for their size, strength, and occasional bad moods, as well as their congenial response to most riders. But they can smell fear.
The smell of fear.
In New Mexico, we rented a house from a horse owner named Astrid. She invited my wife to hop onto her gelding, named Phineas, to ride around the ring. My wife is on occasion slightly unnerved by horses, and on this particular day she found Phineas to be daunting, even though he’d just had his favorite lunch of cigarettes and beer. First, he was huge. Second, he seemed grumpy, especially with a new rider. As soon as my wife was on him, Phineas started backing up through the barn door trying to dislodge the rider under a low-hanging beam. After two or three of these attempts at abject misbehavior, my wife jumped off and Astrid took over, removing Phineas to his stall.
I had a similar unpleasant experience with an elderly and famously gentle mare named Misty on a dude ranch in western Wyoming. We went for a perfectly beautiful trail ride, always at a walk, then turned back. This is when Misty knew she was going back home to eat. We got close to the ranch and the riding ring and Misty reared up three times trying to throw me off, but after the third time I slid off safely to the ground with no damage done. Misty Schmisty – I’m still mad at you.
Other than these, all my riding experiences have been fun, but I mostly go at a walk or sometimes a trot. I’ve loped (or cantered) several times, but it overworks my rear end.
Some of or favorite horse photos here:
A couple of beauties, somewhere out West.
South Dakota, springtime on the prairie. “If ever I would leave you. it wouldn’t be in springtime, knowing how in spring I’m bewitched by you so.” (“Camelot”)
Stallions and mares (obviously not geldings). on the prairie, Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, north central South Dakota.
That’s it for today. See you next time.