I’d never planned on riding a horse.
For starters, I’m allergic. For another, the only time I’ve ever been on something that big – or bigger – was an elephant in Thailand.
But last Saturday I found myself standing in front of Willow – my steed for the day at Spring Lake Ranch. I freely admit I was nervous. None of the helmets fit my head so all I could think was ‘don’t crack your skull’ or ‘break your neck.’ Visions of spooking Willow and being bucked off filled my head.
Later, ranch hand Zoe Mosimann would tell me it’s a good idea to get to know your horse before you ride. But I didn’t have that luxury as I’d only been invited last minute and our small group was raring to go. It was get up or shut up. I had pictures to take and a story to write, after all.
Ignoring my nervous rambling, Mosimann urged me to hop on a rickety crate and put my foot in the stirrup. Thankfully, Willow graciously put up with me as I tried my best to imitate Arthur Morgan from the video game Red Dead Redemption 2. In that game, I always had a knack for crashing my horse into things.
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Willow had obviously seen the likes of me before – a greenhorn from the big city who wasn’t even dressed for the weather. That wind was cold enough to cut to the bone.
Still, I hung in there for the whole hour – bouncing along in the saddle, jostling among our small party of more experienced riders. As I juggled the reins and camera, Willow dutifully stuck with the group, even breaking into a trot now and then when we lagged too far behind. It was actually fun although my fear of falling off never truly disappeared. Along the way, Mosimann offered a few tips – give her a good kick or pull back on the reins – but really Willow was leading me, not the other way around.
Working in cowboy country, it was only a matter of time I suppose before I mounted a horse. Overall, it was an eye-opening experience, especially seeing the icy beauty of Spring Lake. I can see why people come here in the summer to do a trail ride or in winter for the sleigh ride through the snow.
It certainly made me respect those who ride for a living or for pleasure. But as I drove back to the office – and the sneezing started – I decided I won’t be riding another horse anytime soon. I will leave that for the real cowboys.