All of my adult life, I have held this notion in the deepest parts of my imagination that riding a horse would be something very magical. My guess is that the seed for that notion was planted after many years of watching thrilling romance movies. In these movies, there would be a beautiful damsel with her hair being blown back by the wind as she races across an open field on the back of a magnificent stallion. My favorite scenes are those where the woman and horse have some kind of unspoken bond. It’s like the horse knows how to hit every sunbeam in the meadow to make the woman look like an ethereal princess.
So, with this fantasy dream sequence playing around in my head, I trotted off (pardon the pun) to a local stable. I was going to be taking my first-time-in-50-years horse back ride. This was one of the items on my bucket list, so it felt like a real accomplishment to find myself in this moment.
When I got to the stables, I moseyed around the barn to look at all the horses. I was hoping that one of them would meet my gaze in the dim lighting and look at me in that “we’re definitely gonna bond” kind of way. To my disappoint, it didn’t happen, so that part of my fantasy was immediately squashed. But I held onto hope. Maybe we would bond when I got in the saddle!
The happy thought of sprinting through a meadow with the breeze blowing through my hair quickly faded when I put a safety helmet on my head. Wisdom told me to be practical about protecting myself from any nasty falls. However, there was nothing “ethereal” about that helmet. It did not make me feel like a princess no matter how hard I tried to pretend it was actually a crown. I confessed to my daughter-in-law, who had graciously accompanied me: “My brains are all I have,” and accepted the offer of the helmet to ensure the protection of my best assets.
I liked my horse the moment I saw him and climbed into the saddle with great enthusiasm. It was a proud moment to find myself sitting on the back of such a noble steed. The key word here is “moment.” Then we were off… at a snail’s pace… to take our place in line behind the other horses on our guided tour. It didn’t help my imagination, either, that my horse was content to merely follow the pack… or herd… or whatever you call a line of horses that are marching one in front of the other at a glacial pace. I realize it had to be this way for safety’s sake — not just for the riders, but for the horses. Even so, my wild imagination took another bruising.
Hope rose again when we reached a roadway along the trail. The guide said that the horses would now be allowed to trot, so off we went. This is where I have to give a whole lot of credit to filmmakers for making those riding-on-a-horse scenes look so effortless. There was no part of my internal organs that were not shaken or stirred. Not to mention my pride. Especially when I played back the video and heard my daughter-in-law’s fits of giggles as she recorded one of my life’s most embarrassing moments. (No, I’m not sharing that video with you. I’ve burned it.)
My horse and I were at the back of the line, and that was best for both of us. He didn’t like to follow the other horses too closely, and I was content to hang back and take in the view. Like I had a choice. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that horses aren’t smart. Mine was a genius. He figured out pretty quickly that he had an inexperienced rider on his back, so he immediately took the lead. I was happy to let him because I had not a clue what I was doing. He stepped carefully around trees, rocks and limbs to make sure that I was not being jostled, and he stopped for a bite of grass a time or two because he knew I could not stop him. “Get out of there,” is apparently not a phrase that my horse recognized. He merely glanced up at me with one eye while he grabbed another hunk of grass with his lips. Noble steed, indeed.
I was feeling no pain during the ride, but when I went to dismount, the joints in my hips began to scream. I could feel the tightness– and soreness — of the muscles in my inner thighs, and my legs were wobbly once they touched the ground. When I walked in the door, my husband noticed my limp and asked, “How did it go?” My reply was a simple one, “Not tonight, honey.” We couldn’t help but laugh.
No, dear friends, the reality did not live up to the dream. Even so, I was really glad that I went. I have completely satisfied every last remaining curiosity about how it would be to ride a horse. I’ve decided that my imagination does it a whole lot better… and without the need for any Ibuprofen afterward. Giddyup!
Until next time! ~ Susan
A big thank you to my daughter Melissa for presenting me with two tickets to ride the horses for my birthday. Thank you to my daughter-in-law Erica for the sincere pleasure of your company. And a big shout-out to Sunburst Stables of Clarkesville, Georgia, for your beautiful horses and hospitality. Stop by to visit them next time you’re in north Georgia. They’ll be glad to take you for a ride — a horseback ride, that is!