I have always loved horses. When my dad’s secretary, Sue, found out, she told my dad she lived on a farm and owned horses. She invited us to come out and ride them sometime.
On the day we finally were able to go out I had just had two teeth pulled by the dentist. The dentist had said it would be okay for me to go riding and I had to bring a change of clothes since I also had choir practice that night.
Sue and her husband, Dave, owned two horses. Dave led a big caramel colored stallion out of his stall for me to ride.
“This here is Ollie.” He slipped the bridle on, fixed the bit and then led Ollie out of the stables. He cinched up the saddle and checked the stirrups.
I walked over and slid my foot into the stirrup. I felt Dave put his hand on my hip and boost me up into the saddle.
“Are the stirrups the right length?” he asked
“They feel okay,” I replied.
He tied a rope to Ollie’s bridle and then mounted his own horse.
“Just keep one hand on the reins and the other on the saddle horn.”
“What is your horse’s name?” I asked.
“Smokey. He twenty-three years old, but thinks he’s a yearling.”
We started around the perimeter. Dave led Ollie around the first time and then let me hold the rope. Ollie plodded along behind Smokey. Each time we went around I was getting a little more comfortable. When we circled the front of the house again, I asked, “Can we maybe go at a little faster pace? Like a trot?”
“Go ahead and give him a light taps with your heels.”
I did. Not only did Ollie started trotting, he took off on a full-fledged gallop.
“Stop him!” yelled Dave.
I tried to pull back on the reins while keeping one hand on the saddle horn. “I can’t!”
I heard Sue, who had been watching from the front porch, yell at Dave to go get me. I was slipping and sliding around in the saddle. I dropped the reins and just hung onto the saddle horn for dear life. I never thought Ollie would stop. When we reached the barn, he came to a halt.
“Hi,” said one of the hired hands.
“Hi,” I replied breathlessly. I didn’t care what happened. I was just so thankful Ollie had stopped. I turned to see where Dave was. I saw him kick Smokey and literally fly across the field. Dave took the rope from me.
“We’ll go around one more time. Then take them back to the stables.”
I gladly let Dave lead Ollie back around.
“Why did he do that? I didn’t kick him that hard.”
“Feeding time,” Dave answered simply. “He was hungry.”
I gave a shaky little laugh. Half way back Dave asked me if I wanted to try Ollie at a trot again if he held the rope. I said okay. We started out slow and gradually got a little faster. By the time we got back to the stables, I was hunched over the saddle horn. I felt like I was going to get sick.
“You all right?” Dave asked.
“I think so.”
“Just take some deep breaths and you’ll be fine. Nowjust swing your right leg back over, but don’t let yourself down. Lean against the saddle and take your left leg out of the stirrup and then ease yourself down. I’ll hold Ollie still.”
When I started to ease myself down, I wasn’t as close to the ground as I thought. My feet hit the ground a little harder than I expected.
“Are you okay?” Sue met me at the front door.
“I’m a little shaken, but I’m fine.”
“You really looked like a pro out there.”
“I’m just happy I stayed on. There were times I didn’t think I would.”
“Well, don’t let this experience stop you from riding. Not all horses are like Ollie. He’s got a little devil in him. I can tell you are a nice person. You just have to make sure he knows you are the one in control. Don’t let the horse control you.”
“I’ll remember that.”
But I told myself that I would never forget this as long as I lived.