by Ali McKee
A harrowing experience...
|Many people, when asked to recall their first experience with horses, will tell some outrageous falsehood about a pleasant sojourn on their Grandfather’s quaint farm, or perhaps a 'city slicker' trail ride complete with safety helmet.
However, the few who tell the truth will recount a harrowing experience about some stupid hunk of wild animal under their butt that took them on a roller-coaster ride they have tried their hardest to forget but somehow can't because of the necessity of weekly visits to the chiropractor. This story falls into the latter category.
It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, and a cool breeze wafted through the car window along with the exhaust from passing diesel trucks, which greatly subdued the fresh scent of spring. We were on our way to the ranch.
Before I continue, I should explain who the “we” is. There was my Grandmother, (who has equinaphobia), my little niece Gabriella, Aunt Halcyon, and myself.
"Can I ride the horsie?" asked Gabby.
"Gabby, did you know horses eat people?" I returned.
"Ali!" Halcyon glared at me in the back seat.
I looked completely innocent.
"How long will we be out there?" My grandmother didn't mind going to the farm, but she knew it was going to get hot more quickly than she liked. It was Texas, after all!
"Long enough to feed. Maybe Ali can ride, too." Halcyon answered, rolling her window up as a truck full of stench, commonly known as cows, passed.
"You're going to ride?" My grandmother turned to Halcyon. "Oh, maybe she shouldn't. Not today..."
"Aw, come on! I've never ridden. Just this once? Please? Please?" My grandmother, as I said before, has that problem of Equinaphobia. In fact, the doctor just diagnosed her with it. (Sadly, they don't have any medication.)
My Aunt has a theory that has been tested in labs across the world and proven in the field of science: whenever my Grandmother comes out to the ranch, something happens.
Something bad, and it usually happens to me. (Last time... Oh, I won't go there. Forget I said anything.)
We think she transmits nervous signals to the horses, causing them to act irrationally, even stupidly.
When we arrived at the ranch, the horses had already assembled at the stables.
Aunt Halcyon’s horse, Starbuck, (named for the character in Battlestar Galactica), was waiting near the feed shed, hanging out with his buddies.
You must understand that Starbuck is not a normal equine. He’s a mustang, with a very sweet, laid-back temperament.
Therefore, deciding to prove to everyone that I knew exactly what I was doing, I slid onto this sweet Starbuck while he was eating his food. What I hadn’t noticed until it was decidedly too late, was that this horse didn’t have a bridle, or a halter or . . . anything.
I was suddenly grateful that Aunt Halcyon had insisted on my donning one of those “stupid” riding helmets.
The horse I had just slid onto was rather large. In fact, the best description I can come up with at the moment is a propane tank on stilts. (I'm raising the funds to buy an elevator as I write.)
To this day, I don’t know what started them, but the other horses took off as if someone had pulled the gate on race day, and Starbuck wasn’t about to be left behind. Whether or not there was someone sitting on his back.
I was triumphantly gazing about at the shocked and awe-struck faces of my envious relatives, when this Starbuck stopped feeding his greedy self and turned rather abruptly and started to trot away. I was... er, not so triumphant. I'm sure I looked a little desperate at this point.
"Throw your leg over his withers!" Halcyon yelled to me.
"What the heck are withers?!" I screamed back, being mercilessly jossled around.
"Just slip off! No, no, NO! NOT LIKE THAT! You'll kill yourself!" I think my aunt gave up and figured I'd fall off sooner or later, for she didn't say anything else.
The ones who were safely on the ground assured me that it was not a big trot, but I was sure I was on some sort of a maniac earthquake simulator.
My yell started low enough, but quickly worked up into something a little better than a shriek for mommy. The Earthquake started moving faster, and I clutched at its mane, determined that I was going to fall off with dignity. (I've since learned that, 1, the hardest thing about riding a horse is the ground, and 2, there is no dignified fall.)
Around me, I was dimly aware of all the other horses gathering around to view the spectacle that was me. I glanced back just in time to see my beloved aunt doubled over in great consternation for my safety. There were tears streaming from her eyes. However, I did feel a little hurt when I realized she was laughing at me.
Starbuck was veering left and right, obviously deciding it would be funnier if I wove back and forth on his back like a drunk than if I were able to preserve a little of my self-esteem. His ears were alert and happy the entire two minutes that it took me to experience this thriller of a ride, which I have since copyrighted and submitted to the board of directors at Six Flags.
He started dodging trees. I am still quite proud of the amazing horsemanship I displayed as we veered all over earth. All I had to hold on to was his mane, and believe me, I did that. At this point in time, I distinctly remember feeling... hungry. Then I remembered that I was probably about to die, that death could be around the bend, and the feeling suddenly went away.
Of all the places he could have dumped me, that dumb horse found what I’m sure was the only cactus patch within a hundred miles. Starbuck managed to take a wonderfully sharp corner, laying me out flat. He paused for a moment to wonder what, exactly, I was doing down there, but then continued happily about his maniacal way.
It's sad, but my aunt was still laughing as she came around the bed and laughed even harder when she saw my indignant figure sitting on the cactus, arms crossed.