For Lesson #84, Karin had us ride bareback. She put me on Maree and put my new lesson partner, Gerry, on Habakuk.
Maree is an absolute sweetheart, great with kids and as easygoing as a horse can get, but I think I’m too tall for her. Karin insists that I’m not.
I did a quick calculation, comparing Karin’s Equestrian Knowledge Data Base to mine and concluded that she had the edge there, so I agreed to ride Maree despite our philosophical differences and my misgivings.
I liked the idea of bareback. I have an awful time keeping my feet in the stirrups at anything faster than a slow walk. I looked forward to not having that distraction. And Karin said I could ride with in my snow boots – a huge plus.
Bareback also helps the horse and rider share body heat. This was important because it was yet another cold, cold day. The better part of North America was still in the grip of the cruel Polar Vortex, which I now suspect is actually a conscious entity bent on our destruction. In any case, it was warmer that day in Moscow than it was in Knoxville, Tennessee. Some say we’re having a Russian Winter. Although, I don’t think the Russians would say that.
For me, it was an easy tack day. Karin applied the bareback pad and Maree is the easiest horse in the barn to bridle. She practically does it herself. I just kind of dangle the headset in front of her face and the next thing I know it’s on her. I like that.
We rode in the arena, of course. As I led Maree to the mounting block, Karin asked if I retightened the girth. I wanted to explain to Karin that you don’t need to do that with a bareback pad, but then I’m remembered the Equestrian Knowledge Data Base thing and settled for “No, I forgot,” as she tightened the girth again for me.
As it turned out, I was glad that Karin did that. For some reason, Maree suddenly shied – rather severely – as we passed the radio sitting on the wall ledge. I have no idea why she did this. Maybe somebody had it on earlier while they were replaying Erin Andrews interview of Richard Sherman after the NFC Championship Game. We’re all still recovering from that. Including Richard Sherman.
I think if they ever make an action adventure movie about the Polar Vortex, they should hire Richard Sherman to do the voice.
Anyway, I almost fell off. Of all the horses I would expect to bless me with my First Fall, I would have Maree at the bottom of the list. But a horse is a horse and we’re just people and when it comes right down to it, they’re all capable of tossing anyone they please.
To be fair, Maree wasn’t really trying to get rid of me. She startled for just an instant. But it was enough of a bump to put me on her sideways. My right foot, still in its snow boot, courageously clung to the horse’s right side. A literal toehold.
I managed to hang on and not fall, but neither was I able to get back on and right the ship. Like Team Wallace at the Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials, I struggled in Rider’s Purgatory for a moment or two, while Saint Maree patiently waited for me to accept the inevitable. Stickablity is overrated, I say. I chose to get off rather than fall.
You can’t fire me, I quit.
Karin wasn’t there for the festivities. She had gone off to get Mackie while we warmed up. But Gerry was there to witness it – in silent amusement – no doubt, grateful it wasn’t him.
I related the incident to Karin when she came in with Mackie. She said it was too bad I didn’t fall. Oh, the concern was touching.
“You can’t be a real equestrian until you’ve fallen off.”
I think Karin and I have some philosophical differences on this subject as well. Although in this case, the fall would have been measured in inches and I probably passed up a good opportunity.
We worked for a bit and then let the horses loose to roll around in the dirt. Maree demonstrated a proper landing. For my benefit, I believe.
And Karin and Mackie did a reenactment of Muhammad Ali’s TKO of Sonny Liston in 1963.
It was a good lesson for all of us.