I never had determination and opportunity coincide long enough for me to learn how to ride a horse well enough to say I could actually ride a horse. I did do a Rent-a-Horse trail ride in southern Missouri or Kentucky one time but that forty-five minutes in the saddle doesn’t really count. A tranquilized chimpanzee or well-balanced box of avocadoes could have done just as well as I did on that horse.
So, my foray into horse riding is actually quite recent and ole Moses, our new sabino gelding, is my current partner. He has a very smooth quick walk and allegedly has a very smooth trot or canter or something like that but other than a very brief, completely inadvertent moment, I have not been able to find that gear. Er, I think I mean, “gait.”
At any rate, Randa and I rode about three-and-a-half miles yesterday, she on the quasi-Arabian gelding, Shiloh, and me on Moses. There’s a gravel road nearby that goes up the hill beside the bluff just beyond the creek. We rode up that way, accompanied for a while by a couple of dogs, a Rottweiler and a black Lab/Airedale mix, and by a very enthusiastic flock of deer flies. The horses did a bit of snorting and head tossing but other than that did pretty well. I actually began to relax a bit. Keep in mind that in a very technical sense, moving from wide-eyed horror to mild terror is “relaxing a bit.”
After cresting the ridge and enjoying a few minutes of panoramic views of the green hills and fields of northeastern Kansas, we turned back toward home. The horses did right well for the most part, even ignoring the occasional clink of stepping on an aluminum can hidden in the grass beneath their feet. As we came back up to a small feedlot, things got a bit interesting.
The road runs about twenty feet above the low end of the feedlot and is on nearly the same level as its upper end. One of the heavy black heifers took great interest in our approach and the geldings took equal note of her. They turned toward her and stopped in the middle of the road, ears and eyes fixed on her. All parties present and accounted for, at least for that moment.
Then, the heifer reared up, snorted and charged toward the fence like an angry bull.
I cannot fully account for what happened next. I felt a surge of great power underneath me. In one instant, Randa and I were sitting on top of two horses standing placidly in the middle of a gravel road. In the next instant, the two horses stood halfway up the opposite ditch bank. How a pair of eight-hundred-pound animals can jump sideways and do a one-hundred-and-eighty degree spin in mid-air in that span of time is a bit of a mystery to me.
That Randa was still on her horse wasn’t much of a surprise; she’s been riding since she was three years old. That Doc was still on his is a spectacle almost beyond explanation. I’m quite sure that it was not sheer athleticism and cat-like reflexes. But whatever it was, my survival has significantly bolstered my belief that I may actually learn how to ride a horse.
I would never have wished for that experience and will not actively solicit a similar one. But I definitely profited from it. It seems very much like the way that we develop the capacity to survive the testings of this life, and grow in confidence that the hand that sustains us is stronger than our faith.