Sunday, May 18, 2008

8 Seconds - Dad's First Ride - Chapter One

Ever since I could whinny I whined for a horse. At some point or another most girls do. Usually it’s just a phase, since the logistics of a childhood don't often lend themselves to a 900 pound animal. Eventually most girls grow out of the idea and move on to safer things like boys, wine coolers, and sororities. The difference with me was:
  1. we had the land
  2. my dad had a soft spot for animals
  3. as far as knowing the dangers, the expenses, the effort needed for horses, my parents were blissfully clueless
  4. as far as knowing the dangers, the expenses, the effort needed for boys, wine coolers, and sororities, my parents opted for the horse

My mother quickly ran out of excuses as to why we should not get a horse. She realized how determined I was to ride, especially when she caught me saddling the dog and roping the cat. Eventually, my dad and I wore her down, and she let us go see a man about a horse.

We went to visit Mr. Hornbeck, the farmer down the road, and explained that we'd like to buy a horse. My dad made it clear we had absolutely no equestrian experience whatsoever. In other words, have mercy on our souls and sell us a sweet, gentle pony.

Mr. Hornbeck was an eighty-year-old, God-fearing, whiskey-drinking diabetic, who was also apparently hard of hearing, because we ended up with a horse who was, to this day, the meanest, nastiest beast I've ever met in my life.

Patty was a rangy, speckled grey mare of dubious heritage. If you so much as made eye contact, she’d flatten her ears and practically growl at you, lips curled back in a snarl, flashing big old nasty horse teeth. She had a young filly with her who we named Toni. Only a few months old, Toni was a pretty blonde chestnut. Pretty with the exception that one corner of her lip hung askew like she was missing the cigar that usually went there. Mr. Hornbeck swore she’d grow out of her ‘gangster lip.’ She did not. Mr. Hornbeck was a nice man, but some of his facts left a lot to be desired.

We soon discovered that both horses could go over, through, or around just about anything. I once saw Toni jump a fence that was nearly six feet high – from a standstill. Her momma was on the other side and although the gate was open, hopping over the barbed wire was quicker than wandering down to the gate like a normal animal. We’d build a fence even higher and still find them on the other side of it in the morning, calmly munching in the front lawn, corn field, or trash cans like they belonged there.

Late one night I heard quite the racket coming from the kitchen. I would not have been surprised to find Patty and Toni rummaging through the refrigerator looking for a decent snack. Nor would I have gotten in their way. The next morning I found out it was my brother doing the foraging, but for most of the night I lay very still in my bed, hoping voracious nocturnal mares wouldn’t visit my room. Sometimes imagination trumps reality. Sometimes reality wins the terror contest. If you survive, it’s all good.

Horses have many clever tricks up their furry sleeves, most of them designed to help them avoid doing something they don’t want to do. To this end they make government employees look like slipshod rookies. This may also explain why when there’s an ass in a government position he’s usually in management.

You may have seen a silly video where an unsuspecting rider gets scraped off an innocent-looking horse by a tree branch. That’s one of the simpler tricks a horse can pull to ‘unload.’ I’ve seen many more, first hand and up close.

When my dad first saddled up Patty for a ride he looked like he knew what he was doing. As he flung the worn old Western saddle over her back, Patty’s ears flattened and she reached around to nip him. By this time we had learned to expect this, and had tied her lead rope short to keep her from drawing blood. Round One went to Dad.

Dad reached under Patty’s belly for the cinch, the strap that goes under the horse and keeps the saddle in place. Patty swung a rear leg at his head and nearly took it off. Dad landed on his butt and rolled to safety, cursing. Patty’s tail swished in satisfaction. Round Two – Patty.

The next part was a bit tricky for someone new to horses, but my dad had a book on how to tie a Western cinch, so he was as ready as he was naïve. The book said it was just like tying a man’s tie, except different, which was true yet disturbingly inconclusive. Following the instructions, my dad did the over/under/through movements like a pro, making sure the cinch was snug. Patty clacked her teeth a few times in protest. Round Three – Dad.

...to be continued....

4 comments:

ScottMGS said...

"...see a man about a horse."

HA! You crack me up, Annie. We were just talking about that phrase at lunch today.

Packsaddle said...

"......who was, to this day, the meanest, nastiest beast I've ever met in my life."


Whew!

random thunking said...

So, how long was it before Patti exhaled and the saddle was upside down?

Annie said...

*thunks random thunking*
Ruin it for the rest of us, why don'tcha? (psst - answer's in the title)