Sunday, 22 June 2008

Horse Tails

by M in JaM

Born in the Chinese year of the Horse, I enjoyed kicking up my heels and running free in younger years. My first heady experience on horseback occurred when I was about five. I regarded a certain older boy with great admiration, especially when I saw him sitting astride a saddled horse. I suspect his mom or my mom talked him into letting me sit behind him for a photo opportunity, me in my frilly white dress, he in his straw cowboy hat. He even took me for a sedate ride...until the train whistle blew.... the horse bolted and ran straight toward the moving train as I clung on to that boy for dear life. The horse stopped in time. I didn't fall off or embarrass myself in any other way. But I didn't get offered another ride. And never had another chance to hug Bobby.

Five years later my Dad got us a horse to ride around the dairy farm we had leased in Oregon. A retired horse. A tall horse named Babe that limped when heading out for a ride and magically recovered when trotting back to the barn. I rode her out to bring in the cows one afternoon, for the first time by myself, following the cow paths leading upriver to one of the furthest pastures. I felt pretty pleased with myself being so independent until I spotted one pesky cow stubbornly standing under the low branches of a large tree. The branches hung too low for me to ride under and I didn't want to get off the horse because I couldn't get back on without someone giving me a boost. I yelled at that cow and shook the branches that I could reach. She just smiled. As soon as I slid down off the horse, the cow trotted off to join the herd ambling back toward the barn. I didn't want to embarrass myself by walking back while leading the horse. I found an old stump and climbed up, but had a terrible time getting the horse to stand still long enough for me to throw myself onto her back. As soon as I did manage it, she started walking as I struggled to keep from going headfirst off the far side. I finally got myself upright. I didn't fall off. I didn't ride Babe to bring in the cows by myself after that.

My best friend (and neighbor) in Oregon had several horses, a Shetland/Welsh pony mix. When I visited her, we rode bareback with a simple rope loop around the ponies' noses. Those ponies loved to run. And we loved to ride them. One day a tiny stream appeared in our path as we raced through a pasture. I expected the pony to leap over, but he decided to swerve at the last minute. I did fall off that time.... and I didn't feel embarrassed at all! I rode a lot more after persuading Dad to sell Babe and buy two ponies from my best friend's dad.

Now retired myself, I feel content to graze at home and remember some of the days when kicking up my heels felt so urgent.

photo by M in JaM - retired tropical horse

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