I love horses. In fact, I always have. When I was in kindergarten I asked my mom if I could have a horse. As mothers do at my age, our family’s income bracket, and our neighborhood, she said no.
“Why not? We can keep it in the back yard!” This is perfectly sound logic for a 5 year old, after all.
“There isn’t enough room for one there.”
This was news to me. I mean, how much room does a horse really need, anyway?
And so the matter was closed. I went off to pout as tiny girls do when we’re denied a pony, and soon the matter was forgotten. I grew up, or at least as much as one does until they turn 15, and while I still didn’t get to have a pony in the back yard, I got the chance to learn to ride.
A teacher at my school sponsored the “Equestrian Club” and I was there from the first meeting. The teacher, Mrs. W we’ll call her, had three horses….in her back yard (explain to me again why we couldn’t? Maybe it’s too hard to explain city ordinances concerning farm animals to a child) at her home in Wheat Ridge. For our after school meetings we started out learning about horses, and soon we had a ride planned. I was ecstatic.
The club unfortunately didn’t last, but I remained friends with Mrs. W and I would, on occasion, go over to her house for rides with her. She even let me have my 17th birthday party at her house. But that’s another—but not interesting—story that we’re not telling.
So I take you back to 10th grade, when I was 16. Mrs. W had a son that came to our school that year. He was in the senior class, and I was going through my Louis L’Amour phase and was totally in love with all things western….and he was a cowboy. Over six feet tall, brown hair, wrangler jeans, and the quintessential black hat and boots. I had such a crush. But as it always happens in stories as these, he didn’t know I existed.
I would walk to classes on certain routes, because I knew there would be a chance I’d catch a glimpse of him. I was very quiet back then, unsure of myself and reserved, shy beyond belief and very socially awkward. Needless to say, I was one of the most unpopular kids in school.
He never did ask me out, but one day I went over for a ride, and Mrs. W decided to play matchmaker. That day instead of she and I going for a trail ride, she sent her son along with me. So I took Keetna, their white Quarter horse, and he took Bandit. Little did I know that this would be a ride I would never forget, but not because of him.
We started out on the trail that I’d ridden down many times before. I don’t remember saying much (but I had no idea what to talk about with him), nor do I remember how far along the trail we went that day. But I do remember the last leg of that return trip.
There was perhaps 1/4-1/2 a mile left before we got back to his home when we came up on the small bridge on the trail, which the horses instinctually slowed to a walk when they went over. My riding companion said we should slow them to a walk for the rest of the ride, give them this time to cool down.
Keetna, however, had different ideas.
As soon as we were off the bridge, she picked her pace up to a trot. I hear the young man behind me call out to slow her down when she increased her speed to a canter. I pulled back on the reins. “Whoa! Easy girl.”
She didn’t respond. She just lengthened her stride and sped up. I pulled back on the reins further, still to no avail. I could hear Mrs. W’s son riding up behind me, could hear him call out again to slow my horse. I yelled back that she wouldn’t. I leaned a little bit to the side, looking around Keetna’s neck, and I saw why she wasn’t responding to the reins. The bit was no longer in her mouth, and the bridle was there hanging under her chin. Control was gone.
Up ahead the trail turned, a sharp 90 degrees to the left. I reached for the saddle horn and held on as Keetna tore around the corner without slowing. I could still hear Bandit running behind me, but that was somewhere was in the back of my mind as I worried about the trail in front of me. It split, and with a pull of the reins to the left, Keetna turned onto the path meant as the trail rather than the private drive that was the branch straight ahead.
One obstacle down. The next one was by far more worrisome and dangerous however. For, you see, the trail was ending. There was a crossroad that people didn’t tend to pay much attention to the speed limit signs on, and was the “main” entry road to the housing area that we were next to. And my mount didn’t seem in the mood to stop and check for oncoming traffic.
Keetna ran across the street and I would have breathed a sigh of relief that there was no traffic on the road if I weren’t still holding my breath. It was only a couple more steps for the horse and she had turned up her street. We were about three houses up the street when Mrs. W’s son finally caught up with me. Well, more than that really. He past me, blocked Keetna’s path with Bandit, hopped down, and stopped my runaway horse.
I was shaking pretty badly when I finally got boots back on solid ground, and I muttered something about Keetna spitting out her bit. He then showed me the cheek strap of her bridle. The screw that had been holding it to the bit had broken. We walked the horses back to the house, where Mrs. W was waiting to hear how the ride went, and she got some story. Not what she was expecting to hear, I’m sure.
For some this would have scared them away from horses, or permanently fixated them on cowboys. For me, it did neither. I went on riding for years, giving me other stories that need to be told, but that will have to wait for another time. Tonight, I ride off into the sunset.
….Or drive off to work.
All depends on how you look at it. 🙂