I have always been kind to animals, but for some reason animals have not always been kind in return. Case in point; horses.
While dating the girl who eventually became my wife, I was given a chance to prove my manhood by riding one of two horses. She chose her friend’s horse, a sedate, well-trained Palomino quarter horse mare, Millie, and I was given Trigger to ride, a tall, dark, manly-looking quarter horse stallion.
As a youth I had taken riding lessons, English style, which seemed to be a refined gentleman’s way to ride. Of course as a young teenager I was neither refined nor a gentleman, but I think my parents hoped something good would rub off on me, other than the scent of sweaty horse flesh. That early training did give me confidence, but it did not prepare me for Trigger.
The first thing I had to get used to when riding with the girl I was trying to impress, was the Western style saddle with a prominent saddle horn. English saddles have no such horns, simply because you don’t need to rope calves when engaged in gentlemanly riding. But that seemingly anachronistic saddle horn may well have saved my life.
Trigger was appropriately named. Every time I mounted that horse I seemed to trigger a rude bout of equine depravity. On one such ride, accompanied by my girl on Millie, we decided it would be good sport to transition from a canter to a full gallop. Great fun I thought.
Except Trigger did not make smooth transitions. His erratic, rough sprint caused me to lose my seat on the saddle, and with only one foot in a stirrup and one hand welded onto the saddle horn, my head was suspended inches from the unpaved, sandy road whizzing past, with the maniacal horse’s hooves slicing back and forth a scant nose distance from my face; or so it seemed.
Quarter horses are fast sprinters, and to that horse it didn’t matter if his rider was firmly seated or not. I must admit that being inches from hoofs and sandy road presented an interesting visual perspective. It’s not one you often see — and survive.
During another horse riding adventure, my girlfriend and I were again riding Millie and Trigger, respectively, along that same sandy road. Once again we were galloping because that’s what young people like to do, (especially slow-learning ones like myself). Millie was commanded to slow and make a hard right turn onto an intersecting road. True to character, Trigger would have none of that.
Given the choice of going at light speed straight forward, or slowing and making a right turn, he chose the path least taken – a 45° angle through a plowed farmer’s field.
A horse’s mind is a difficult thing to fathom. Perhaps he was looking for intellectual freedom from the rider sitting atop him. I don’t think I was whispering to that demon horse as we churned up the newly plowed land. I was probably shouting things unkind, but he didn’t seem to care.
Like Pavlov’s dogs, I began to associate the color of that horse as no longer dark and manly, but as dark and brooding; or more appropriately, plotting. As my wife recently told me, it was lucky I wasn’t killed.
Recently, scientists have sought to determine experimentally whether horses are lazy or bored. Trigger was neither. He was, well, the word that comes to mind is… fiendish.
Perhaps you have known a seemingly diabolical horse like Trigger. If so, my condolences; but to be fair, I cannot blame the horse. As they say about dogs, children, and horseback riders: they all need training to be enjoyable.