Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Saddle

It would not be a wrong assumption that my recent trip to a mountainous environ would involve taking in the powdery slopes of some ski resort. However, even though this recreation is native to my home state, it is not something i usually engage in, due largely to my fascination with exploring the outdoors. Whenever i travel back, i like to fill my time with walks, drives, hikes, rock-climbing, and on a rare treat, horseback riding.

I have stated before my experience with horses, but i haven't really mentioned much about my girl's. Through a perfectly lucky coincidence, she and i have a similar affection for horses and riding, with a few differences. Her experience came through summer camps where she would be paired with an animal, taught how to care for it entirely as well as ride it, which has led her to romanticize these great creatures to the point of girlish glee whenever she sees one. Whereas, my interaction with horses served as more of a functional, work-related symbiosis. While i enjoy their presence i still see them as a means of transport, just like my feet, a car and my hands might also facilitate my exploration of the terrain.

Prior to leaving for our trip, my girl arranged for us to have a couple of hours of private riding with a guide. She could hardly contain her excitement for this opportunity to sit in a saddle once again. The entire time leading up to it, she kept telling everyone who'd listen about her time with horses and how much she was looking forward to this time.

Our guide picked us up at an arranged location in the middle of the small mountain town. Within the first sentence he spoke, you could tell how genuine this man was as the purveyor of a dozen horses. This man was a cowboy. An old cowboy, one who had seen many changes across the West, and most of them from off the top of a horse. He ferried us in his "bukkit uh bolts" to his horse corral, where he had three steads waiting for us, ready to ride. My girl chose "Rascal" - who proved to live up to his billing - which left me with ole "Burly". Walking up to Burly, i could tell that like our cowboy guide, he too had seen many a years, but i had no problem trusting him and lifted myself atop his saddle. Our guide took us up a trail that raised our elevation by 1,500 feet in less than 20 minutes. My horse was gulping big lungfuls of air by the time we summited to the vast open mesa - always a strange experience to feel that coming from something you're straddling.

It felt good to be back on a horse. The land on the plateau we explored was so vast, i had several opportunities to wander off and let my horse out into a gallop. This is an experience that is hard to describe to those who've never done it. Galloping a horse is very unlike riding in a speeding car or on a roller coaster. While there is speed, the excitement isn't just unique to the rider in the saddle. Horses are evolutionarily made to run, and more than that, they love to run. So, holding onto the reins as this animal charges underneath you, hurtling you at frantic speeds, it's both a thrill for you AND your horse.

When we'd finished, my girl and i got to speak a little about the experience. While i had a blast, my girl had what could be described as a near spiritual experience. I wanted to learn more about what made it so profound. The thing, she said, that really grabs her is that it's very similar to a Dominance and submission relationship. The horse must submit to her commands, but she is dominant only because this 2-ton animal lets her. There must be consent, or else she'll be tossed from off its back. And that allowance, that willingness to consent to guidance and command really affects and fulfills her.

I knew exactly what she meant.


I'd like to thank Vesta for her always impressive stewardship of this site in my absence. I do hope you enjoyed her perspective. I know i did as she always serves to enlighten me about some detail in a past post i hadn't thought of before.


persephone said...

just want to say that that was a great piece and i really enjoyed it! the degree to which you were inspired by this experience shines through very clearly in your writing.

having read your blog since you first started, i've noticed that your writing style is overwhelmingly enhanced when you've had a particularly affecting experience. the result really is superb.

so glad you had such a good time on vacation.

elle said...

I have been an avid horsewoman for over 25 years. Whether it is a person who has come to riding later in life, or letting a handicapped child spend some time with my horse, it always warms my heart to watch people who haven’t been as fortunate as I, spend time with these beautiful animals.

I’ve ridden in the Smoky Mountains, the Arizona desert, and the Midwestern plains - I hope you and your girl will continue to explore this experience, because what you’ve touched on is only an inkling of what could be with a horse that you’ve owned for half it’s lifetime - ridden, bonded with, whose trust you’ve earned.

Hugs, Elle

Horses - If God made anything more beautiful, he kept it for himself. ~Author Unknown

Vesta said...


I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your time in the saddle, and it prompted me to try to put some words down about my experiences with horses,too.

I have your "cowboy" firmly in my mind's eye. An absolutely absorbing post.

Marie 'entrain said...

I'm glad you and Kitty had such a wonderful time. My man and I both love to ride so I can truly appreciate your post.