|Copyright, Teece Aronin|
Syd has taken riding lessons off and on for about four years. Miraculously, she has yet to fall off or be bucked by a horse. I think this might have something to do with the fact that the horses instructors usually pair people up with have more in common with leaky old pleasure boats than with Triple Crown winners - and I mean leaky literally. Still, my daughter sits a horse like a pro even if the horse looks like an amateur.
One thing I've learned about horses is that they have personalities - interesting personalities - as often as not, more like Mr. Ed's than Silver's or Trigger's. Mr. Ed, by the way, was the slow-talking, trouble-making Palomino from the 1960's sitcom bearing his name. In one episode, he provokes his human, Wilbur until Wilbur blows his stack, after which Ed gently scolds in motherly tones: “Wilbur, you yelled at your little horsey.”
One day, a picture I was taking of Syd with a horse, turned into a step-by-step tutorial for horses on how to photo bomb. It began with the horse standing placidly alongside my daughter and progressed with it systematically pushing her out of sight with its head. I remember Syd trying to mount that horse one day. It waited till she was about to put her foot in the stirrup before stepping forward two steps. When Syd adjusted her position and attempted the mount again, the horse took two steps back. This went on until the horse grew weary of the game and allowed Syd to mount. The horse, however, had made its point.
My grandfather broke horses for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He said that when saddling horses, he’d resort to kneeing them sharply in the belly, forcing them to expel the air they’d pumped up with to keep the saddle from getting sinched too tight. I can't say I blame horses for that, but when my son was little, he nearly fell under the galloping hooves of a horse who had managed to get away with that trick.
Now that we've established the sneakiness of some horses, let's consider those who take attitude to a whole new level. For instance, this is a made-up story, but not by much because you can't tell me something just like this hasn't happened:
Say there's this horse named Bucky. No one at the farm likes Bucky because he didn't come by his name without cause. Bucky is just plain nasty, and if he can throw you, he is filled with pride. If he can throw you and then step on you, he's thrilled.
A new farmhand comes on board. He is cocky and boastful. He claims he can ride Bucky without being thrown. The farmhand mounts Bucky, and Bucky takes off like a shot, disappearing over a nearby hill, rider barely attached. When Bucky reappears, zooming up the rise of the next hill, it is with an empty saddle.
I love horses, I really do, and used to ride from time. The squeak and the scent of saddle leather, the rolling movements of the horse beneath you, the sound of clopping hooves - all those things are like nothing else, and I can see why Syd loves horses too.
I just pray she'll know a Bucky when she sees one.