October 28, 2006

Girlish Dreams

Is there anything more depressing than a trail ride? Straddling an overweight horse with ill-adjusted stirrups and a beaten spirit for a trudge through the brush makes me delirious with frustration. Horses were not made for trail rides. The reason every little girl draws and dreams of horses is because of the beauty and freedom these powerful animals represent. But often her first experience with the real thing is on a trail ride where those idealistic fantasies are smothered as she sits horrified watching the horse in front of her defecate lazily on her steed's proud nose.

As you probably guessed, I was one of those horse-crazy little girls. I wished on every bright star in the sky for a horse when I was young. My indulgent parents took pity on me and boarded an ill-tempered pony one fall so I could realize my dream. But it turned out that Peppermint the Pony had unplumbed mental illnesses that involved eating his own poop and lashing out at every living creature within 100 feet. After recovering him from various neighbors' half-eaten flower beds and acquiring delightful bruised tailbones from his incorrigible bucking habit, my parents sent Peppermint packing back to the barn to disillusion some other bright-eyed little girl.

But hope is a hard thing to kill. I scrimped and saved and a few years later proudly presented my parents with $90 to help pay for riding lessons at the local stable. Now keep in mind this was Connecticut where English riding is the vogue so I obligingly donned the geeky hat, uncomfortable stirrup pants and joined a beginner's group lesson - eager to become the next Atreyu or Alec. Class after class we rode slowly around an indoor corral on those mind-numbingly slow horses. English riding is founded on looking snotty so we spent weeks just walking the horses to perfect our ridged postures and upturned chins. After what seemed a lifetime we moved on to trotting. But our instructor made us post to prevent us from having to feel the crude back of a horse under our privileged white bread butts so it was as exciting as doing squats for an hour.

I was going nuts. This was not what I had anticipated when I handed my hard earned $90 to my dad. Where was the abandon? The glamour? Or at least the sun? Every day of class I would look wistfully out the large dusty windows of our indoor arena at the lush New England forest and dream of dashing my horse out the door and into the trees, helmet akimbo. But somehow self-control won out and week after week I grimly trotted around that dim ring. On the very last day of my 6 month long enrollment, the instructor allowed the one boy in the class to try his luck at cantering. The rest of us watched fascinated as he glided smoothly past us hugging his legs tight to his horse and bent low over its neck. I have never been so jealous of anyone in my life. Never.

We moved to Texas soon after and I was shocked to learn that some of my new friends owned horses of their own that they rode at their pleasure. At 13 I found myself one beautiful twilight in the wide open Texas brushland on a mangy mustang who didn't care if I slouched and would rather I didn't post when he trotted. (Alas, to this day I can't break the habit!) My friend and I were late getting back to the house and she suggested we make a break for it. "But I've never run a horse before..." I said. She gave me a disgusted "don't be stupid" look and told me just to kick the horse and hold on. Which I did. Suddenly I was flying over the brush towards the sunset with the wind in my ears and a grin wrapped clear around my skull. My grip on the reigns was treacherous and one of my feet had popped out of the stirrups but panic and rapture glued me to that horse and got me home safely. Despite the short ride, I kept my wings all evening. Sadly, we returned ho,e the next day and I wasn't able to relive the previous night's magic.

I have since gone on one million and one "trail rides" and feel ripped off every time. After that amazing yet brief experience of elation in the Texas brushland, I've never been satisfied with anything less than a gallop. But most of us modern schmos will never get that opportunity. My husband's family even owns horses but they live on a side of a mountain covered with rocks and running is considered too dangerous. But those horses sure know how to walk. Whoo-ee! Nothing as exciting as a nice walk on a horse! (Can you smell the sarcasm?) Nope - I'm done with walking horses. I'd rather not ride at all than be stuck on a trail ride. Besides, I can walk faster than most horses so why bother getting my legs all saddle sore? It's like going back to soft serve ice cream after you've tried Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia. Utterly pointless.

I'm not too old yet and may get another shot at glory on a horse, but I'm not holding my breath. Unlike on those darn trail rides where if you don't hold your breath the inner membranes of your nostrils are fatally seared. So next time we go to Cancun together and you think the "trail ride up to the ruins" expedition looks like fun, count me out. I'll be back in my hotel room scribbling pictures of sausages resembling horses running the range beneath perfect rainbows and puffy clouds. You know - the real thing.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

lol @ horses. XD

Suzie Petunia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Suzie Petunia said...

I haven't had the same type of fascination with horses. But, I remember being ecstatic about riding the horses at 6th grade camp, but it turned out to be just the kind of experience you've described. Walk, walk, walk. I hope you get to experience the thrill of a real ride again sometime. I think my sister in Texas can hook you up.

http://squeezescharmans.blogspot.com/

Samantha said...

You know, I don't remember ever having a desire to ride horses. I've been on a few in my life...I think only one trail ride- and although picking up a little speed is exciting, as soon as that thing got past strolling I was terrified. I'm glad someone has the guts to ride those gigantic, terrifying creatures.

A Payne said...

A love for horses is something you are born with. People learn to like cats or dog, but a love for horses is either in your genes or it's not. My sister loves horses. Me? Not so much. I have a niece, loves horses. Mini Me? Nope, no horsey fascination there.

Lindsay said...

You know, I think I'm one of the few girls I know that has never had a wild ambition to throw caution to the wind on a horse. Maybe someday I'll change my mind.

Sarah said...

Okay, so no one has the faintest clue what I'm talking about. What else is new?

A.L. said...

Interesting post and funny too. I rode about four times, and each time the horse tried to knock me off, rode into the brush, two legs in a ditch, that sort of thing. My wife gets mad at me because I won't trail ride. I had one good experience, but like you said, I could have walked there.

Rachel said...

Oh Sarah! I know EXACTLY what you're talking about! I was one of those lucky few little girls who had a horse growing up, and my heart is starting to race right now just remembering the thrill of galloping along the canal banks and dirt roads of my native farmland. I honestly hurt with missing my horses sometimes. Someday, someway, I will have a horses again, and then you can come visit and I'll take you on a real trail ride - Man from Snowy River style.

My sweet husband wanted to take me riding on our honeymoon. It was a sweet idea, but exactly the kind of ride you described. Nothing like what riding a horse should really be. I'm glad you got a taste of it so you know there's more to it than walk...walk...walk...

i don't know what to be when i grow up said...

Great post! I never knew you were a wild cowgirl at heart. :)

Anonymous said...

I always wanted to ride but never had a horse, friends w/horses, or the money to learn. *sigh* Maybe when I grow up. I *heart* horses!

Anonymous said...

Sarah,

You have created a very powerful enemy.

-The Flake Family Horses