Horses are beautiful animals. The seem to move with grace and project power up close. As a kid I always wanted to ride a horse as I was enamored with the ease at which cowboys rode in the movies. As a kid I was also afraid of horses. As I said they project power being some pretty muscular beasts, and being a sort-of-short, skinny kid they towered over me. We got to pet one once when I was maybe 10 and the horse just looked at me, snorted and clomped his feet a bit which scared the hell out of me. So I never made a move to ride a horse while I was a kid.
Fast forward to my freshman year in college. I am dating a girl named Becky who lived in Wisconsin. One weekend in spring I went home with her to meet her parents and hang out, and one of the things she suggested we do is go horseback riding. I hadn’t thought about that for a long time and my first thoughts were positive. Then I remembered how they scared me a bit when I was younger and started to get a bit hesitant. She did her best to reassure me that it was easy and that the horses available for riding were pretty tame. not wanting to appear to be a wuss, I agreed and off we went with us and 2 of her friends.
The place was in the middle of a bunch of farm fields and the route we were to ride was simply around this huge country ‘block’. it consisted of a path along side the road for most of what was essentially a large square with a few places where the path dipped into the ditch and was lower then the road. Corn fields surrounded us. So we get there and sign up, they ask us who has rode before. Everyone’s hands went up but mine. “OK son, since you haven’t rode before we’ll give you Silver, he knows the route and will follow the other horses so you should have an easier experience”. Great, I want easy right now. So off we go to get saddled up! I get to silver and he looks ancient! Looks like I get the senior citizen horse today. The staff helps me gut up and then they adjust the stirrups for me, hand me the reigns and lead Silver and me off to the rest of the group. A little hint now that I found out later, my stirrups were set too high.
Off we go, wandering past the corn fields of Wisconsin and a very slow, ambling pace! At first I am thinking that this is kind of nice. Your body starts to sway a bit with the gait of the horse and you get in a rhythm. Me and Silver were last in line and about half way thru the first leg I noticed that he was starting to drop a bit behind the other horses. All of a sudden Silver picks up his head and starts to trot towards the other horses to catch up. Trotting hurt! I was not ready for it and so I just hung on, my inner thighs burning thanks to my shortened stirrups. After a few moments he caught up and we went back to our geriatric pace.
Well it seemed that with each leg Silver walked slower than the rest and decided to trot and catch up, surprising me each time. As we approach the last leg back to the barn I notice that Silver is father back than usual. I am trying to urge him to catch up, preparing myself for the trot to come, but he isn’t listening to me. Finally he picks his head up and starts trotting to catch the horse in front of us (which btw my girlfriend is riding). About half way there, the horse in front of us turns his head around and sees us. I have no idea why but this other horse has decided that it wants to race and the horse in front of us starts to trot as well. Oh boy, Silver isn’t having any of that and starts to RUN! Oh my God, this isn’t good. I hold onto the reigns in a death grip and start screaming “Whoa!”, but Silver must be deaf, as he keeps on running. The horse in front of us must be an aggressive walker as he decided that Silver was NOT going to get in front of HIM and he also starts to run. So now Becky and I are in a horse race and neither of us can stop it. Well Silver may be old but he was pretty damn fast and shortly we passed Becky and whatever her horse was named, as well as the other 2 in our group. Once in front, Silver decided to brake-check Becky and just skidded to a stop, almost throwing me over the front of the horse. Becky’s horse also stops and then both of them reach over and grab a corn stalk from the field next to us and start chomping on them. She looks at me and I look back at her and all she can do is shrug her shoulders and say “sorry!”. After a minute or two both horses decided they were ready to proceed once the other 2 horses caught up and we all ambled back to the barn.
For the next 3 days I could barely walk. My inner thighs were screaming at me in pain and I was told it was because the stirrups were too high for me. Not sure if that is true or not, but I am going to go with that. I still think horses are majestic animals, but my enjoyment will be limited to occasionally betting on them, not riding them. Ever.