A horse is a horse of course of course

We all have dreams and things we hope to do someday. I added my girlhood dream of horses to my bucket list. I want to learn how to ride a horse! Write down your dreams, if you’re not making those dreams come true, just writing about them can help you sort out if they’re realistic or will remain forever a treasured part of your inner world.

A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful – and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.  ~Pam Brown

I wrote an essay about my latest effort to bring a dream out of my psyche and into my real world. It’s been so much fun, both writing about it and actually riding a horse! IMG_0104

1000 pounds. 1000 pounds is ½ a ton!  A horse weighs 1000 lbs or more. When I was a little girl I had a dream. I wanted to fly with the wind on the back of my own beloved horse. But when I was 8 years old, the fact that horses weigh 1000 lbs meant little to me. I loved horses and read lots of horse books.  I read My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty and Brighty of the Grand Canyon. Brighty happened to be a burro, but he was a close cousin of the horse, so that was good enough.  

The books  fueled my dream and even now 50 years later that dream hasn’t faded. I decided to broach the subject with my husband. It’s never too late, right? And it’s on my bucket list!

So back in December I jokingly told my husband Kim that I wanted a horse for Christmas. I am a city girl and knew that wouldn’t happen, but maybe just a few horseback riding lessons? Kim just gave me his, Oh Golly, What next? look and the matter was dropped.

So Christmas came and lo and behold, Kim actually gave me a horse! He even found one that is exactly the color I had always wanted as a little girl. A bay, dark brown with black mane and tail. But alas, it was a plastic horse model. Ha, funny guy. But he did give me a few lessons at a local stable.

I roped a friend into joining me for lessons and the first day I looked at the horse I was going to ride. I looked up. His name is Laddie… and he…weighs… over 1000 lbs. He’s a big boy. I asked the instructor if she ever had old folks learn to ride and she assured me she’s had people even in their 70s come for riding lessons. The first thing we did is groom the horses. I was told about the different brushes and what they’re used for and I must admit, as I brushed that horse along his neck and across his back in broad sweeps, I fell just a little bit in love. His eyes are soulful, the ears perked forward in delight and the velvety lips nuzzled my shoulder. The instructor said that he would love for me to talk to him so he could get to know me. I talked in a low soothing voice, sweet nothings. He snorted. Just the response I’m used to.

After the grooming we got a lesson on how to bridle the horses and heave the saddles over their backs and buckle the cinches.  Okay. So now this ol gray lady was supposed to get up on the back of this 1000 lb beast? Whose idea was this? Up close and personal… Laddie was tall. Did I mention he weighs 1000 lbs? Of course I had done some reading about horseback riding lessons and many of the websites related how dangerous horseback riding could be. I needed a helmet. I needed hard toed boots in case my feet got stepped on. If I fell off I needed to learn to roll away from those stomping hoofs. I told this to my husband and he asked, “Can’t you just do something without reading about it and learning stuff you’d be better off not knowing?”

So I gave Laddie a gentle pat on the side of his head, and hoped he was patient and kind. I looked up to his back and breathed a sigh of relief when the instructor brought over a step stool. I tried to forget that usually it was needed for all the 4’ tall kids who took riding lessons. I stepped up, put my foot in the stirrup and swung my leg over. She told me how to hold the reins and position my legs and I nudged him gently with my foot. Finally the horse took off at a walk and I practiced turning with leg pressure and a gentle tug on the reins in the direction I wanted to go.

Laddie stopped. Just stood there. He pawed the ground and gave a little whinny as if to say, “This lady has no clue!”  I chirruped my tongue and gently nudged his sides. No go. The instructor was watching my friend ride her horse around the arena and looked over at Laddie and I at full stop and said I was confusing the horse.  Excuse me? I was confusing the horse? I thought he was confusing me. He was supposed to ‘go’! She came over and started jiggling my foot in the stirrup. “Relax your feet! You’re all tense, the horse can sense that and is trained to stop when the rider is confused.” I guessed it was likely that the horse was just confused about why this heavy lady was on his back when he’s used to an 80 lb slip of a girl.

Laddie and I finally got our communication sorted out and off we went. When it was time to dismount the instructor said to swing my foot well over his rump. If I bumped the rump it may startle him and he’d take off with me half off and half on.  Oh gosh, really?  I managed to get my leg up and over, behind me, try it sometime, and just barely brushed his back.  Back on the ground again. After another lesson I was able to get that sweet boy to trot. My feet were relaxed, no one was confused, and off we went. The gentle motion and tiny bit of speed, seeing the muscles of Laddie’s withers flex and ripple, hearing the staccato of hoofbeats, and knowing that I was in control of a 1000 lb beast, now that’s a rush!