My sister really wanted a horse. But the rules of the house required lessons first. So, Mom signed us both up for classes at a huge horse ranch and arena.
I could see my sister’s excitement, as for me, I just smelled the horses and the hay. We were led to the stables, where the instructor sized us up and matched us to our horse.
A stable hand had already saddled the horses and we led them by their reins to the arena. About six other kids joined us in an hour long lesson. This was only the beginning.
We were taught how to mount these huge creatures. I always needed help. Then we’d slowly trot around the arena. As the weekly lessons followed, my sister got more enthused and better at horsemanship. She saved every babysitting dollar she earned for her own horse.
Me, on the other hand, hoped the lessons would soon end.
Then, just a few lessons later, we had to saddle our horses before class. This meant entering the stall, saddle in hand, lofting it up onto his back, and cinching it tight. My horse gave me a daring look and snorted—breathing out loudly. It was as if he was waiting for me to screw up. He didn’t have to wait long.
Once in the arena, we were instructed to begin with a trot and then when our instructor yelled, we galloped—keeping a safe distance between riders. At a full gallop, I felt the power of my horse. He wanted to go even faster.
That’s when my saddle slipped and I flew off the side, landing with a resounding thud. My horse kept merrily galloping on with the saddle dangling beneath him. I’m not sure who was more undignified—me in the dirt, or him riding with a saddle the wrong way.
The instructor strode over to me scowling. “You didn’t cinch your saddle tight, did you?”
“I thought I did.” I replied lamely.
“Get up and get your horse and see if you can cinch it up tight.” She commanded as she stomped away.
I muttered something snippy. She spun around in her well worn cowboy boots and barked, “Better cinch up that smart mouth too.”
I haven’t ridden many horses since then, but over time I learned that keeping things cinched tight, like my mouth, has kept me out of the dirt more often than not.
And for that, I guess I can thank those horseback riding lessons.
Photo credits: Anna Kaminova, Jez Timms, Fernando Puente