Friday, July 29, 2011

No one told me not to bite the horse...until it was too late.

This is one of those stories that sounds, well, made up. But it's true.

It was just before Christmas in 1988. I had started my first professional job, and became friends with a woman  grew up on a farm and knew and loved horses. She saw an ad in the paper from an elderly couple who wanted someone to care for their horses and would allow the caretaker to ride them whenever they wanted.
   She was relentless when she wanted something. She wanted me to go riding with her. I finally relented.
   I'd been on horses before. Twice. Both times they were trail trained, docile, and friendly.
    She showed me how mount the horse. I did it and she said I looked like a natural. The horse and I stood, calmly waiting for her to mount hers so we could go riding.
    Do you remember that I have just a wee bit of Type A in my personality? A little. A titch, a touch, a smidgen. OR a streak...depending.

She didn't tell me the horse was leg trained. I had no idea such a thing was possible.

I leaned back in the saddle, putting my legs back to try to get a better grip. I said nothing to the animal. I didn't move the reins. Not a "giddyup", not a sneeze, not a fart, not a nothing.

He took off across the snow-dusted field like he was being chased by the very hosts of hell. Or a flock of Avon ladies...or Seventh Day Adventists. I stayed in the clenching my legs and yanking on the reins.

The horse ran harder and faster. He had his head turned and his neck back, but was running harder and faster.

He ran toward a split-rail fence. I saw it, about a hundred yards away. By then I was standing in the stirrups, yanking the reins, shouting WOAH like I was Yosemite Sam. I was looking into one of his eyes...the one he wasn't looking out of at the moment. I was sure he was going to jump the fence.

We were close to the fence when I decided 3 things. 1--I was the man. 2--He was the beast of burden. 3--He was not going to jump that fence if I had anything to say about it.

It bit its ear.

Bit it hard, baby! Clenched the old jawbown.

No one ever told me... Horses can stop on a dime!

With lightning speed, I collided --intimately--with every vertebrae in his neck. We found my wallet on the other side of the fence.

He stopped and stayed stopped. I slumped in the saddle, pretty sure I was bleeding internally, but still in the saddle. We made a sort of peace, that horse and me.

The young woman I was with knew no such peace. She was howling at me like I'd just kicked a puppy. "What possessed you to bite a horse! You can't bite a horse! He'll throw you!"

I asked the horse if he was going to throw me. He gave every indication that throwing me was the last thing on his mind. Frankly, I think he was a little surprised.

I learned my lesson, too. I rode a few times after that, but have never bitten a horse again. I figure everyone gets one...and I used mine.

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