Every birthday, my husband plans a surprise for me. As with every birthday, I spend months guessing what he has up his sleeve. I had exhausted all options and suddenly one day it hit me. What did I really want? My husband has always been able to give me the perfect gift; somehow he manages to figure out what I want the most. So, instead of spending time guessing, I decided to get introspective. What did I want? I wanted to ride a horse; I wanted lessons and such. Yes. I had guessed my gift correctly.
My husband had me block my schedule for the Saturday morning before my birthday. I kept telling him I think it’s a horse. He kept telling me that I may be disappointed if I didn’t get my wishes. Well, Saturday morning, I’m still rolling in bed when my husband says that my hint was waiting for me on the kitchen table. I jump out and run to the table to see a black cowboy hat sitting there. “We are going on a horse!” I jumped with delight. “Yes, we are. Run along and get ready!” he said. “It’s the bestest birthday gift ever,” I squealed and off I went to finish the morning hygiene routine. And readers, yes, I know that “bestest” is not a real word!
We drove an hour to the Royal Arabian ranch in Illinois. Apparently a friend of my husband told him about this place. He had further recommended a particular horse for me. Red. Red was supposed to be great with first timers and so my husband had called in to reserve Red. I have ridden him twice now and I can see why Red was the recommended horse.
For a first timer, they use a step stool to help us mount the horse. They make sure the stirrups are the right height and well adjusted. There I was, in the indoor training arena, on Red; I couldn’t have felt better. He was just calm and it seemed like he didn’t care that I was on him. The instructor told me to kick him and say “walk on”. I tried that. Red wouldn’t move. He just stood there bored. “Kick him harder!” “But I don’t want to hurt him,” I retorted. “You can’t hurt him. You are like a fly to him! Kick him or he won’t know you want to go.” So, I tried; over and over and over again. He finally did move on the instructor’s direction. Oh Red! “He just doesn’t want to work.” That’s what the instructor said. Perhaps.
I must add that it’s hard to kick a horse, with your toes pointed up and trying to keep your feet in the stirrups all at the same time. No wonder it felt like a fly to Red. It’s just tricky. Red eventually got the hang of it. He moved and he also took direction very well. He went right and left as I guided him. He did well. It took him a while. “He knows you are new and if he can get away with not working, he will.” That’s what I was told. As we made our way through the trails, all it took was one kick “walk on Red” and there he was, walking again and navigating his way with my direction. There was a particularly sharp turn and I helped him navigate through it; he did wonderfully to avoid a head on collision with a tree. Red did well. Through the ride, he stayed calm and bored. He knew I was nervous but he didn’t care. He probably thought, another day another kid! He was also good at reading me. He knew that I didn’t know any better and he could get away with not moving, if he could.
This past weekend, we went back to ride. I requested Red again. I liked that he was calm and disinterested. I guess when you are riding a horse you don’t want one that’s just going to take off and leave you stranded. I mounted Red using the step stool again. My instructor gave me the same instruction. “Kick him and say walk on.” So, I did. Red walked immediately. Then they asked me to stop. Red stopped immediately. They did say that was probably his favorite command, but I was surprised at how responsive Red was. It felt like a different horse. Maybe Red knew I was more confident? I don’t know. Red followed my directions precisely through the ride and he was going at the pace of the instructor. We did have to stop several times as my husband’s horse, Queen, didn’t want to move this time.
Seems like tables were reversed. This time around, Red was moving and I hardly had to tell him to move and Queen was constantly being talked to. I could hear my husband from behind going “Walk on Queen.” “Come on Queen. Walk on.” This went on the whole trail ride. Red, was a different issue this time. He just decided he was going to have a good day and I was lucky to ride him. I’m not completely sure that Red takes all my commands, but I will request him again. He’s just a quiet fellow and I would love to get to know him better. I’m coming back for you, Red.
Until next time,