My husband and I recently made a trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. While there I thought it would be nice to take a horseback ride through Garden of the Gods. In the past we have driven through the park, making photo stops. A horseback ride would give us a different perspective. Of course, I found out that the perspective you get depends on the horse assigned to you. Don’t let that sweet, innocent-looking horse in the picture fool you, and I’m smiling because the ride was over.
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my parents let me take a year of riding lessons. I really enjoyed those lessons. I felt like I was getting the hang of riding a horse quite well. I progressed quickly from walk to trot to canter. I also got to go riding at other times when it was not my lesson. The stable had some very nice trails. However, those lessons were decades ago. When I filled out the paperwork for the Garden of the Gods ride, I checked beginner. They did have a category called, “Never been on a horse,” but I didn’t think I needed to check that one. Beginner described me just fine.
We got to the stable about 30 minutes before our assigned ride time. We got our riding helmets and waited. A wrangler came around and assigned each of us a horse. I was assigned to Friday. Okay. No worries.
Then the owner of the stables came over to give us instructions on how to “drive” our horses. Rules included keeping your horse at a walk and allowing a space the length of a horse between you and the horse in front of you. Then the owner asked us our assigned horses. When I mentioned I had Friday, he said that Friday likes to grab snacks along the trail and to just pull his head away. Hmm! That should have been my first indicator of Friday’s personality. Then it was time to mount up. They brought the horses over to the water trough and called out each horse’s name. They had me mount Friday from a platform before leading him to the water trough. My first thought when I got on him was, “Wait a minute! I’m really far off the ground!” The girl leading my horse kept telling me that Friday was a great horse and how much she loved him. That should have been my second indicator. I was beginning to think I might not want to do this after all, but it was too late. The third indicator was when Friday left off drinking water for a few seconds to swing his head back to look me over. I’m guessing he was sizing me up and trying to decide what he could get away with. Looking back now, I’m sure he was thinking, “I’ll get even with you!”
My security in the saddle was not helped by having stirrups a little too long. Instead of shortening the stirrups, they turned the stirrups sideways. This made it difficult to use my legs while riding and to position my feet correctly. Being more secure in the saddle would have greatly helped. I’m pretty sure that Friday knew I wasn’t feeling very secure.
We started off. There were 6 horses in front of me and 2 horses behind me. I have no doubt that the horse knew what he was supposed to do. He just didn’t feel like totally following the rules. It seemed he was one of those personalities that likes to push the boundaries just enough to be annoying but not enough to really get in trouble. He would crowd the horse in front of him or he would hang back and then when I would kick him to go he would trot to catch up. Toward the end of the ride, it felt he was trying to make me fall off because he would stop very suddenly. I guess those other tactics hadn’t really worked so he was trying a new one. That horse had a very rough gait, and his trot was bone-jarring. He also tried to grab a couple of snacks along the way. A couple of times when we stopped, he swung his head around to look at me again. I spent most of the ride telling him, “Whoa,” while pulling on the reins, or telling him to go. I began to yearn for the end of the ride. I thought he would settle down when we started back toward the stable, but he kept up his antics all the way. He was, in short, an extremely ornery horse.
While on the trail, we met some other riders from the stable. They recognized Friday and called out, “Hey, Friday!” I thought I was so lucky to have such a famous horse. Uh-huh!
I was hoping to dismount with a little dignity since my dignity had taken such a beating on the trail. No luck. A wrangler got the reins and led me to the platform. He kept telling me he wouldn’t drop me. I finally was pretty much hanging on to this guy to get my right leg over the saddle and get off. My ankles were hurting, and it took a few minutes to get my feet under me again.
I didn’t get to see a lot of scenery because of wrestling with Friday. However, I am happy to report that I made it back to the stable in one piece. One thing that Friday didn’t know about me is that I’m very determined. I’m not a quitter, and I was going to get through that ride. However, I think next time, we’ll look at Garden of the Gods from the car.