3KQAM # 1: Have You Ever Been Horseback Riding?

Author’s Note: This is the start of a series of essays inspired by the Piccadilly Press book 3000 Questions About Me. Not all of the questions are open ended enough to inspire posts, but I’ve chosen some of the ones I think can be though provoking for both myself and my readers. Hope you like this series!

Yes, and in typical yours-truly fashion my first (and so far only) time on a horse, I jumped right in and rode 20 miles up Mt. Toby. Did I mention I’m crazy like this? It started when my friend, Diane, asked me to join her on a riding excursion after a football game in November, 2002. I said yes immediately, mostly because I had always wanted to try it and also because I didn’t want to say no to spending time with her just because I’d never ridden a horse before. I knew the two cardinal rules of dealing with horses – never approach them from the back and never let them know you’re nervous — but that was it. Otherwise I was as green as the fields we’d be riding past. The horse the guide chose for me was a mild mannered Morgan/Arabian mare who was pregnant with her second foal and she was saddled Western style, which I found comforting for some reason. It wasn’t until I was astride her and realized how far off the ground I was that I got nervous, but I knew I couldn’t telegraph that to her or she’d take advantage of it in some way. Once I learned how to handle the reins and “steer” my horse, we were off and headed up the mountain. It took a few minutes to get used to the rhythm of riding but once I did (which didn’t take as long as I thought it would) it was actually relaxing. The fall colors had started to wane a little bit, but the migrating birds were in full voice and the crisp air was scented with the coming of winter. The trail leader taught us about horses and advised us how to navigate going up and down hills to keep our center of gravity balanced and it was a beautiful outing. The only time I was scared was toward the end of the ride when my horse took out from under me — fortunately the trail leader quickly intervened and helped me stop and we made it back to the stable in one piece, but I can’t say that my heart wasn’t in my throat for a few seconds. After I learned to correctly dismount, I quickly realized why cowboys are bowlegged because I couldn’t straighten my legs. I was surprised at which muscles actually hurt the most- I was expecting my butt and thighs to hurt (which they did) but little did I realize the middle of my back would hurt from leaning in the saddle to keep my balance. . My lower calves ached from keeping my toes up so I could communicate with my horse through my heels. I could barely walk for days, and in retrospect, maybe I should have eased into it a bit with a shorter ride, but my only regret is that I haven’t been on a horse since then; life has intervened and the opportunity to go back has never presented itself, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’d just take a shorter path next time.

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