I’m not a trained equestrian by any stretch, but I did ride horses occasionally as a kid on my Uncle Dan’s farm, and even got a merit badge in horse riding as a Boy Scout. As an adult I have lost forty or so dollars betting on them in small increments at the Remington Race Track in Oklahoma City, and once while plastered and wearing a top hat at the Royal Ascot in England. So I know a thing or two about horses.
I recall with great clarity that once a horse senses you are confident and know what you’re doing, it will seamlessly follow your directives often before you have consciously communicated them. I’m not and I don’t. I am no more confident riding an animal that weighs as much as a refrigerator than I am in any other field of life, and I’m even less competent.
Both myself and the horse always know this from the moment I fumble my way into the saddle, so my relationship with the horse is basically that of a hat which offers suggestions. The horse is going to wind up doing whatever it feels like.
In my case, the horse felt like laggardly following the other two horses ahead of us. My horse would meander behind them, always drifting a little to the left, thinking about Mr. Ed or Secretariat or whatever horses daydream about. Eventually, when the gap between us and the show-off horses up front became so evident even my horse couldn’t ignore it, she would bolt forward at a full gallop in what equestrians term “a high-velocity testicle slap.”
I’m fine, by the way. Knowing my role as a Suggestive Hat, I had some work arounds. If you flex your thighs so that you’re squeezing the horse, it makes you more stable and less bouncy. When your horse suddenly remembers that it is, in fact, a horse, and tries to catch up with its buddies, you can extend your legs and lean back a little in the stirrups, so that you’re standing up. I don’t recall if Uncle Dan taught me this trick or if they covered it in the merit badge course, but both myself and my gonads are glad they’re implanted in my memory.
The first half of our horse trek happened in a thick, dense fog, which made everything spooky, but in a cozy way. When we reached the summit we had a wonderfully unobstructed view of: more fog. But, as we clopped back to the lodge, the heavens parted and we looked out over valleys, mountains, lush vegetation, and even a volcano. The world went from a fuzzy gray to a lush green. Then the fog slinked back in, and the world returned to grayscale, as if the universe itself were growing cataracts.
Incidentally, my dad had cataract surgery earlier this year. When he called me about it, he said, “I can see blue again!” Because apparently the cataracts had developed so slowly he hadn’t realized he had them. Which means for a year or two, Dad thought the sky was constantly overcast.
Andrew Heaton is a writer and standup comedian in New York City. If this post made you laugh or think, kindly "like" it on Facebook.