Childhood - When I was a kid I loved to ride horses. Okay, there was this one time I was riding my friend Mikes horse when I was about nine years old and he took me under the apple tree to see if he could scrape me off his back. He couldn’t. I sure showed him! It took me weeks to heal my back, and I had to get a new shirt. Not that it was my only shirt. I had another one. Anyway, that’s what being a kid is all about right?
I guess I got better because I spent the summer at my cousins and rode their horse all summer. I never got scraped off once.
Twenty’s – Smart, no horses.
Thirty’s - Can’t say I’ve had a stellar horse career as an adult though. A friend of mine took me elk hunting on horseback. He had two horses. He chose the older one for me to ride. Said she was steadier. He said the young one got easily distracted and would walk right off the cliff if you weren’t watching out for him. Then he took us on the hairiest mountain trail ride I have ever been on. All I could think about was walking over the edge of the trail and plummeting down the mountainside.
To make matters worse, a friend of mine had just lost a mule over the side of a mountain. A fighter jet from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station decided to go on “low altitude maneuvers” in the North Cascade Mountains. The mule owner actually demanded to speak to the base Admiral and darned if he didn’t get a new mule, compliments of the US Navy.
Anyway, this article is about me. After we got back from that hunting ride my friend admitted that was the worst trail he had ever been on. I hunted on foot the rest of the trip. I was getting older.
Forty’s – I went to Mexico on vacation and decided my horse career needed a refresher. I signed up for a horseback ride on the beach. They separated us into three groups. Expert, intermediate, and beginner. I claimed to be intermediate and they gave me a horse named Rice. He had short bristly hair that looked a lot like rice.Well I handled him pretty well, like riding a bike right? I was the only one to stay on a bareback horse in the ocean. We swam about three feet and came back. I was King!
Right after that we saddled back up and it was time to let them run but only if you volunteered. Of course moi being so experienced compared to the others, I was game. We took off at a dead sprint. I have never felt so much pain in my legs in my life! No one told me not to ride a horse with sandpaper fur while wearing shorts! It took months for the hair to grow back on my legs. It was embarrassing. I’m sure everyone who saw me the rest of the vacation thought I waxed!
Fifty’s – Married a professional horse trainer. Well that’s just great! I thought I had outgrown horses. All of a sudden we are the proud owners of a wild mustang and a Missouri Fox trotter I named Gaitor. He is a gaited horse. But this story is about me.
The first time I rode him it was going well and I decided to put him into his slower gait called a flat walk. We went about 30’ and something spooked him. He went left and I went right. It wouldn’t have been so bad but I landed on my face in a crushed rock parking lot. Missed the soft dirt field completely. Once again, it took weeks to heal and the broken tooth replacement cost was $3,500.00. Of course Laurie was horrified and very upset. There was a horseback riding class going on in the corral next to us and she thought I scared all of the little girls on their ponies. She thought it was extremely bad form for them to see that. There I sat with blood all over my hands, knees and face and I was in trouble for setting a bad example?
Fast forward to just last summer. We had finally finished the house and had time for our first horseback ride from our own property. A dream come true. We live next to National Forest and can access it right from our driveway. Out the gate we went. We made it for about one mile. Laurie and her mustang were in front and spooked a “thunder” of grouse. My poor horse thought it was the second coming or something. Again he went left and I went straight up and back down flat on my back. That one took about two months to heal but my teeth were intact! Poor Gaitor. He wasn’t a spooky horse per se but when he did spook he was just too quick and athletic for me to stay on him. It wasn’t his fault but he had to go. We made extra sure he went to a really good home. I was quite attached to him and it was hard to see him go because of my faulty riding.
Well, yes, we did get a new horse. His name is Yogi. He is as big as a mountain. An old style quarter horse. He is 13 years old. Very sweet. He calls to us whenever we are outside. He is supposed to be the answer to all of my horse troubles. Old and steady. The only thing is it takes a ladder to get up on him and once you are up there you can’t believe how high off the ground you are. The view is spectacular. Well that’s just great! Higher up = greater distance to fall ... not a good formula.
I keep falling off horses and what is the professional trainers answer? Get a bigger horse, the size of a dump truck. What kind of trainer is she anyway? For that matter what kind of wife? I’m changing my will. I’ve seen stories like this in the evening news like when a couple goes on a dive trip or hunting together. We all know what she is thinking. What is that old cliché? The bigger they are the harder they fall? HMMMM?
On the one hand, I was glad to see the snow leave us. On the other hand, it’s time to go riding. You may or may not see my next blog.
Sixties ? – ……………..
Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website goodideasforlife.com and offgridworks.com.