It's an unusual title for a piece about riding a Horse, I'll admit. However, that was my horse's name. "Moo". Well, I called her Molly throughout the ride. She was a sweet, adorable, charming female, with an attitude. (Hmmm, this sounds familiar...). It was the first time I had ever ridden a horse.
My mistake was in letting her do whatever she wanted while waiting for the others to mount up. By not taking control immediately I opened the door to all kinds of mischief. Life is like riding a horse....?
It was important to me not to look like a Dork in front of the 2 young people in our party. I am very fond of them, and while I will freely act "dorky" in their presence, if it will make them laugh; I don't wish them to think of me as a "Dork". It is a fine distinction, but a significant one.
So I needed to display some courage to encourage the young fellow with us to show some courage of his own. Naturally, I stepped up first to mount, in my best "not a dork" manner. Mounting was not an issue, I had actually run it over in my head a few times. The stirrups were an issue, and the guide had to reset them to the level of my feet. While I had seen all this before, I really didn't know what I was doing. While trying to keep my feet out of the way I discovered some new muscles at the back of my thighs, which I would be reminded of again, somewhat later.
Some background information. I have been around many horses and spoken with them, played and walked about with them. One of my friends in Florida had a "retreat" for mis-used horses and I had spent a good deal of time there. Rusty said I was a good influence on them and even the most abused ones trusted me. I never told her but I always believed it was because I sang to the horses. Heather fell in love with horses there and we frequented several stables, while she was learning to ride. I became chummy with quite a few "stable Moms", and was surprised there were not more Dads involved. I "sang" to some of the horses Heather had ridden, and the submerged non-scientific part of me was willing to believe that it helped somehow. I've always been good with animals. Somehow I never rode a horse. That was quite a while ago.
One member of our party requested a particular horse named "Babe". Just a reminder, my horse was named "Moo". (I am starting to put more creedence in that Life is like riding a horse theory.) The stable hadn't saddled Babe and the guide, after correctly sizing up the requester, decide he better get Babe prepped. I am familiar with the requester and his estimation was spot on.
During this time I was mounted on Moo, and letting her wander about as she wished: a big mistake. Moo nibbled a few cowslips and a couple of brambly looking things, which kind of surprised me. When she moved too close to the fence, I took the halter and moved her away. She was a little resistant at first, snapped up one more brambly bit and acquiesced. As we moved away from the fence, she twsted her neck around and eyed me with amusement. I swear she was laughing at me.
I have found horses to be marvelous creatures, smarter than they appear, and capable of great affection. Most horses also have a highly developed sense of humor. It is, unfortunately a "Three Stooges" sense of humor and I suspect the pie in the face gag would be high humor to most horses.
Moo cleared her nostrils and laughed at me. "This," I thought, "is going to be an interesting ride."
The guide said, " Babe is the Alpha Female."
If the years on my shoulders have taught me anything, it is when to keep my mouth shut. This does not mean I WILL keep my mouth shut, but I always know when I SHOULD. I turned Moo around and heard myself calling out, "That figures". Even Moo laughed at that.
Finally everyone was mounted, and I attempted to get Moo to move forward. In some ways I am a bit of a wimp; for instance, I once accidentally ran over a fluffy bunny on the highway, and I actually cried. So couldn't immediately start kicking this sweetheart (with an attitude) horsie to get it to move forward. This was another mistake, as she was quite used to that sort of thing, and may have responded immediately had I not made that first mistake (up ^ there somewhere). I swallowed hard because my mouth was so dry I couldn't make the required tongue click to get her to move without kicking her. I swallowed again but couldn't get that click to come out. Almost as one, the party hollered "Kick her" and indeed I did. So I kicked her and squeezed her and she moved off at a descent (if comically lazy) pace. I started to sing and Moo seemed to turn her ears toward me, but that may have been wishful thinking. It would not be the last time Molly-Moo laughed at me.
She was testing me. She wandered in close to the cacti, and set me up for low hanging branches a number of times. Holding the opinion I do of horses humor, I found this hilarious and laughed aloud at each new "stunt". I finally got the hang of getting her to move forward and keep going. Moo tried her next bit of slapstick on me. She would start to trot, even though I was shooting for the more pleasant Canter. Moo would trot for 50 paces and stop dead. Each time she did this she twisted her neck around and laughed at me. I was still having an issue with not wanting to "kick" her to get her to move.
The young man who had displayed such incredible courage even to get up on his giant beast, was rapidly closing on Moo and me. The "Alpha Female" of the group was close behind. I gave Moo a quick slap on the rump and she took off for real. "Yeehaw" I thought to myself. The young man hollered from behind me something to the effect that Moo's running was causing his horse to run off too. Hmmm, I couldn't let that happen so I confused the heck out of Moo by getting her to slow down. She laughed at me and lifted her front legs off the ground, just enough to make me squeeze and grab the reigns a little more firmly. I laughed aloud and patted her neck, I was becoming very fond of this female and her attitude (Gosh, this sounds familiar too...). I started to sing John Mayer's "Daughters" while Moo clipped at the greenery.
My young companion and our "Alpha Female" were catching up so I tried to click my tongue and sort of made it, this time. Moo laughed and I had to kick her again to get her to move. Moo insisted on trotting, I believe, because she knew it would make my butt hurt more than any other gait. We were about 3/4 through our ride and I had not fallen off the horse. The scenery was deliriously beautiful, and the day was delicious. The Sun drizzled down on us through the crisp Spring air, and the desert is always an amazing sight, especially from up here. For all Moo's attitude I have rarely had such a good time with my clothes on. Oh yeah, and I never realized that the view from atop a horse was so different!
Moo (whom I was still calling "Molly"), didn't give me much of a hard time on the way back. I was getting the hang of it. I had taken a firmer grip on the reigns, which re-assured her, I think. (sot of brings me back to that "Life Is Like Riding A Horse" theory.). More likely: Moo had had her fun with me and knew we were headed home. Moo was determined to get a drink of water in the stream on the way back. I was determined that she would do as I wanted, even though I felt like a shit-heel if she was half as thirsty as I was. Moo did not drink from the stream. A private victory for the one on top.
I dismounted without using the kiddie steps and I did well (well, I didn't look like a total dork, anyway). It was as I was swinging my right leg over the saddle that I was reminded of that heretofore unknown muscle group in the back of my thighs. I believe they are called "Tensor Faciae Latae". For me, they will always be known as the "Gee that hurts like hell" muscle group.
I will have to say the high point of the day was the courage my young companion showed in even getting up on the immense, smelly, beautiful creature. He has some balls (you should forgive the expression) and I am immensely proud of him.
As for me, my only regret is I didn't do this sooner. My humble gratitude to my companions, without whom I may not have done this at all. I'm sure I will have to do this again.
Oh Yeah! I rode a horse. Moo!