Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Can I Get Off My High Horse Now, Please?

My athletic prowess is generally limited to a quick game of Frogger on those old arcade machines. (I get winded if it starts to carry on too long.) So horseback riding seemed like a bit of a stretch, but my girlfriend at the time had told me many times before she wanted to try it, and for her birthday this seemed like the perfect occasion to give it a go. Plans were made and YouTube horse riding lessons were viewed. I would be a pro.

It was on a blazing hot Saturday afternoon that we arrived at our gated destination. After a quick and formal introduction to the various horses in the stable, we met with the instructors who guided us through the ins and outs and the for-the-love-of-God, don't-touch-them-there's of horse riding procedure. I was told that the animal that would be my partner for the 2-hour country stroll was named Daisy. Aww, Daisy. Probably the kind of animal that's used to carting around 50-pound children. How would she possibly manage to get through a 2-hour stint with this full-grown adult man on her back? When Daisy was guided around the corner of the stable by a legion of staff from the facility, however, I was shocked to see that Daisy was only marginally smaller than most apartment buildings.

As the instructor gave me a knowing head nod, in the "what are you waiting for? get on". kind of way, that only a sporting instructor can do, I looked around expectantly for a Sherpa or two to emerge from the stable doors to guide me on the steep incline toward the distant summit of this majestic animal. No such luck. I was the last of the group to get on my horse. And so I suffered through the muffled laughs and sssh's of the children and their parents who had joined us for the trip as I grabbed and pulled my way up. Once I had successfully grappled with Daisy long enough, she eventually allowed me to rest on her back. I was already out of breath, yet still defiant and proud of my negotiating the trip to the vast wasteland of Daisy's peak. After a faint tug of the reins we were in business.

There was an instructor leading the excursion, followed by the riders who followed single-file through to an instructor at the back of the group as we made our way around the dusty trails in the woodland. The views were picturesque and my girlfriend seemed to be enjoying the journey so I felt pretty pleased at this point with my idea. All was going well. At least, until Daisy noticed a creature in the field ahead, possibly a dog. I got an inkling that all wasn't quite right in Daisy's world when she started making grumbling noises. What happened next would vastly alter the intricate dynamics of my relationship with Daisy.

Before the trip, I was informed that riding a horse would be just like driving a car. But, in my experience at least, cars, when they notice other, smaller vehicles, generally don't charge through other cars, in the process making those other cars angry at your car and by extension, you, the poor soul "driving" it, on its' way to a destination only known to the car itself.

"Kick her!" I heard in the distance from the instructor at the tail-end of the group as Daisy galloped through the crowd. Kick her?! I would do no such thing. The horse had been in control this whole time and i refused to anger her anymore by flailing a stray size-10 human foot in the direction of her gigantic equine hind leg. I like animals. Not enough to stop eating some members of their community, obviously. But enough to know that physically kicking them would be wrong and, in this situation, blatantly stupid. "Pull on the reins!" was another piece of advice offered, this time by the instructor in front. What? You mean that tiny piece of errant plastic which couldn't restrain a deceased feline let alone a charging horse? A piece of plastic that had been discarded by the charging animal about 100 yards back as trees whizzed by us in a blur? No, that was no longer a viable option.

We eventually ended our terrifying 2-minute romantic jaunt by resting in a nearby field. She had decided it was better to stop and eat some dry grass than continue her chase and, as my heart-rate started to slow down to a mere 300-beats-a-minute, I was delighted with her decision.

Daisy and I were guided back on to the woodland path by the instructors who were appalled at my refusal to obey their ridiculous mid-gallop commands and now she, to her credit was quite calm and quiet. It was as if the last few moments of our time together were just a run-of-the-mill everyday event for Daisy, as she trotted her way around the rest of the paths.

After we had negotiated the rest of the trail and I had para-sailed my way down to the ground, I was greeted by my still laughing girlfriend. My near death experience had apparently made her day. I had unknowingly provided her with a perfect birthday gift. As we watched Daisy being led back to her stable, she turned her gigantic neck and looked back towards me, as if to say "you're welcome."

Now, 3 years on, I have not forgotten the eventful hours that Daisy and I spent together. And if I'm feeling especially brave, I might even consider going horseback-riding again, once the night terrors end.

PS. Don't let this put you off horseback riding. This sort of event is rare, I'm sure. And although most of the people on our trip were under-10 years of age, each of them had little difficulty managing their animals.


Allison said...

Why would they tell you to kick her? That makes them go faster. Pull on the reins to slow them down. The second person had it right. Clearly they didn't give you good instruction.

I was kicked by a horse once -at horseback riding camp. I was brushing "Dr. Pepper" and s/he kicked a fly off her/his leg and hit me in the ass. I ran away to the pen where my friend was brushing her horse. Then when I had to ride her/him, the instructor told me "Dr. Pepper is the fastest horse in the barn." Excellent.

I also had a pony named Hanzel knock over my instructors pop and drink it.

MeCassieMarie said...

As Allison said, "kick her"? I doubt you wanted to speed her up.

Anyway, horses are full of personality, that's what I love about them. My horse, Baby, behaves a lot like a dog. She'll follow me around and brush against my head with hers. I wouldn't say she is trained well enough for inexperienced riders though. (Sometimes I have to "circle" her around if she starts to get frustrated.) She has never bucked or kicked me. I hope you get the opportunity to ride again, this time with a more pleasant experience. :)

-Stopping by from 20sb

Sarah said...

Haaaaaaa. This made my day, Roberto. I especially enjoyed the part with the sherpas and the part where you dismounted via parasail. Nice work.

JerseySjov said...

i hate horses. i had an experience similar to yours only i was one of the 7 year old girl scouts you were surrounded by. horses are evil. eeeevil.

Anonymous said...

okay, so your blog officially goes on the 'do not read at work while office door is open' list, because i was laughing so hard!!! wonderful story-telling skills!

luckily i'm allergic to horses and never have to be around them EVER, but when i was at day camp when i was younger (maybe 10?) we had to horseback riding, and all i remember is finally being brave enough to approach then pet the giant beast in front of me only to have it sneeze a giant horse-sneeze and completely cover me in horse-snot. my only regret is that someone didn't capture the moment on film, because i'm certain it would have taken top honors on america's funniest home videos. seriously.

crystal said...

At least sweet little Daisy didn't rear up on you. Not a fun experience. Especially when the last horse you were on happened to be plastic, have a big stick going through it, and only moving in a circular path to circus music.

ps. This is me stalking your blog. Loves it.

Rob said...

Allison : Yeah, I didn't really know much about horses beforehand but the kicking option did seem pretty crazy. Probably not the most reputable trainers.

MeCassieMarie : Thanks! I hope i get to go again soon. I probably would do, given the opportunity.

Sarah :Cheers! Always glad to be a part of the day-making action.

JerseySjov : Haha, perhaps the horse you were on and maybe even Daisy WERE evil. Maybe we just have bad horse luck?

egosyntonic : Ah! Maybe you should just quit your job and read my blog full-time? Also, did the horse sneeze because you were there? Is this yet another reverse-allergy related incident?

Crystal :

Excellent point. I'm genuinely glad that Daisy did not rear up on me. Sounds like you have some pretty bad carousel related memories there. Please, keep stalking.


Kate said...

Ahahaha hilarious! :D

I'm always afraid that a horse will eat my head if I come near them. I'll stick to watching other people get bucked.

Rob said...

Kate : I sure as heck hope that your fear is not founded on a real-life event. Thanks for your kind words!

Meghan said...

I have never been on a horse, and... don't plan to ever get on a horse! It seems a little terrifying to me (I love animals, but prefer furry, cat-sized ones).

Thank you SO MUCH, btw, for the tickling slow loris link... MY GOOD LORD that thing puts a smile on your face. DELICIOUS.

Now THAT'S an animal I can safely say I'd want to hang out with... ;)

Rob said...

Meghan :

You're welcome! I knew it would cheer you up!

It's a shame they're poisnous and endangered otherwise i'd buy 100 of them to keep in my house.

Allison said...

How is it that you have so many followers? Is this a cult?

Rob said...

Allison :

As long as all drink from the punch bowl at the same time, i'm OK with this being a cult.

AmericanTribal said...

I used to go horseback riding all the time and I've had my share of terrifying events... but this, this made me laugh. Laughter is a rare and beautiful thing... so, thank you :)

Trouble.Thinks said...

Riding a horse is on my list of things to do in this lifetime - however, I don't think I could kick a horse! When I read that, I swear my heart did a little jump! haha
An interesting story, good luck next time :)