Back in the Saddle

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Are you thinking of moving to the country?  Do you want to have animals?  Maybe a horse or two?  Here’s my story of how a Morgan mare came to live on Red Pine Mountain.

Spring, 2008. The mud is drying and all I want is a horse but Mountain Man doesn’t understand why any sensible person would want one of those hay burners.  “If you want to ride something, get a tractor.” 

But, I was determined, and he relented with conditions.

“You can have a horse but you have to ride it home. No trailering; you have to prove you can ride the horse.”

Ride the horse? Was he kidding? I rode for years, jumped anything no matter how high or how wide. Heck, I even thought I was a horse when I was a child. There was no horse I couldn’t ride.

True, it had been 35 years since I’d ridden.  And I had spent the past year off my feet with a serious illness.  Yes, he was right, I had just gotten to the point where I was walking again, and I still wasn’t back to normal.  But ride a horse; all I had to do was sit on the thing. Nothing to it. Piece of cake. Horses were in my blood.

I located a Morgan mare just a 20 minute trail ride from home.

“Okay, Mountain Man, tomorrow is the day. I’m bringing Khrysta home.”

Anna, Khrysta’s owner, offered to ride with me.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine. It’s not that far.”

“Yes, but there’s a quicker way. And, I’d love for the chance to get out and ride.”

Anna saddled her horse and off we went.

Wow, I had lived 53 years for this day.  I was on a horse again, not just any horse but MY horse.

I was so busy with my own thoughts I barely noticed when Khrysta stopped. There was a brook in front of us and Anna and her horse were on the other side waiting.

Now, this was no rushing river. It was a small, meandering body of water that looked quite pleasant but not to Khrysta. She stopped and refused to move forward.

“Look where you’re going. Look straight ahead and she’ll go where your eyes are looking,” Anna called to me.

Sounded good. I stared at the path beyond with an all knowing assurance we would begin to move.

Nothing. I guess Khrysta was absent the day they taught horses this trick.

“Give her a gentle kick and look forward.”

Kick I did, gently.

Nope, we were still not moving.

“Gather up your reins, look where you want to go and kick her. She’ll go.” I could hear the frustration mounting in Anna’s voice.

If Khrysta had turned into a rock, she couldn’t have been more still.

“Turn her around and then try again. This time remember to look where you are going.” Well, now I was getting frustrated. I sure wasn’t looking behind me. Gee.

Khrysta wouldn’t turn, Khrysta wouldn’t budge. Khrysta wasn’t going anywhere.

Anna finally gave up, rode over the creek, latched onto my reins and led Khrysta across. We arrived safely on the other side of this tiny body of water.

Anna released my reins. Khrysta turned her head to look at me, and I could swear she was laughing.

We continued on through beautiful woods and gorgeous well groomed, wide trails.

“Do you want to trot for a while?”

“Sure, let’s go.”

Anna’s horse trotted off and Khrysta immediately followed.

If you’ve ever ridden English, you know you usually post when trotting. Up down, up down. Simple enough. A lovely motion in rhythm with the horse’s stride.

I started up, and my body refused to go. My entire foot was numb and my leg was a mass of jelly. I couldn’t pull myself up that infinitesimal distance.

Quickly, I flashed on the idea of a sitting trot. Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce and bounce some more. I swear I could hear Khrysta groan.

“Oh, Anna ,” I shouted ahead at her quickly disappearing horse. “I think Khrysta’s tired, and we’ll just walk.”

Whew, problem solved and Anna was none the wiser.

The ride was uneventful until we came to a narrow country road.

Whir, I hear a huge monster noise of a giant truck coming.

“Use your leg yield and push her over to the side. Get over as far as you can go.”

Leg yield, hmm, I remember that phrase from my ancient schooling days, but I sure the heck didn’t remember how to do it.

Fortunately, Khrysta had an acute sense of self preservation and promptly went to the side of the road.

We left the road for a large, open field. What a beautiful vista, long flowing grass surrounded us. I was lost in thought again.

Wham, my upper body hit Khrysta’s neck as she reached down to graze.

“Pull her up, pull her up.” Anna groaned.

“I’m pulling, I’m pulling, but I think she’s hungry.”

Anna gave Khrysta a whack on the rump. Zoom, off we went with me struggling to gather my reins.

Are we never going to see home again? How did it get so far away?

Finally, I recognized the trail to our house. I could relax.

While I was relaxing, Khrysta decided she didn’t want to go to another home. She wanted her old home. Around she went and took off running. I hung on and went with her.

“Okay, Khrysta if you just slow down, I promise I’ll never make you do anything again.”

I bargained with her, upping the ante with every hoof beat.

From behind me, I could hear Anna yelling.

“Pull her up, don’t let her get away with that. Make her stop.”

What, is she crazy? Does she think I’m enjoying this ride faster than the speed of light?

Anna passed me. Khrysta slowed.

Anna grabbed my reins once again and led Khrysta along.

Defeat. I couldn’t even get my mare down the road.

At least it couldn’t get any worse. Our farm was in sight. Hurray!

It was time for me to dismount. I tried taking my foot out of the stirrup but it wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t even feel I had a foot. Oh, what had happened to my foot?

“Are you okay?” Anna asked.

“Sure, I’m fine.”

“Then just dismount.”

I took what I thought was my foot out of the stirrup and even managed to get my other leg over Khrysta’s side.

I let go and started to slide off.

I kept sliding. Where in the heck was the ground? It had to be coming soon.

I slid some more and felt the earth. There I was underneath Khrysta flat out on my back.

I looked up at Anna who was gazing at me in disbelief. Khrysta looked around at this crazy lady lying underneath her, and I couldn’t help it. I started to laugh. My humiliation was complete.

Mountain Man was waiting with dinner. What should have been a twenty minute ride had taken three hours.

“Did you have a good time?”

“Oh, yes, wonderful.”

“Was everything okay?”

“Oh, yes fabulous.” I sank into my chair. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to get up again.

I’ve come a long way since then.

I could tell you about the next trail ride with Anna where I screamed my head off as we hurtled down steep hills. “Stop screaming,” Anna yelled. “You’re scaring Khrysta.”

I’m scaring Khrysta? What about me?

I was so tentative back then.

I can ride with confidence now. I’ve stopped screaming. I’ve re-learned the basics and pushed on. I’ve been scared, I’ve been frustrated, and I’ve been in pain, but I never once thought about quitting

I told Anna about my desire to compete in an endurance ride and asked her what I could do this winter to get to my goal.

“Just keep working out. You need to keep exercising. Make sure you stay in shape because your horse will get back in shape lots quicker than you will at your age.”

What would I do without that refreshing Yankee honesty?

I’m going to ride in that 25-mile ride and then the 50 and finally the 100. I’m determined, going to do it. Just make sure there’s a mattress under the horse when I stop.