Despite these happy memories, the intervening years have seen me gradually become anti-horse. I don't know why exactly, but themes include dirty, smelly, large, uncomfortable and dangerous. Horse lovers I am sure will be aghast. Now as regular readers know
Not so fast cowboy! Kate is under 14, which meant that unless she is accompanied by an adult she would be confined to the horse rink or whatever it is called. You know, the boring sawdust paddocky bit. Trotting around in circles. Gah! Right, OK then, I too will get on a horse. Dammit. But Kate has to clean it. Brush it. Whatever. I'm just coming along for the ride, so to speak. Hopefully my horse will have enough sense to just follow her horse. Slowly.
Bloody hell horses are huge. As we walked down to the barn after lunch on our first afternoon all I could see were massive horses. They're measured in hands apparently, which is ridiculous - it should be in storeys. I confessed immediately to having zero horse-riding experience so as be given the most confiding and docile animal possible. This was Tiffy.
|Tiffy. Front view.
OK, so grab a rope from over there and go and get her, she's in the last field down there, and then bring her on back here...
I have to get my horse? Next you're going tell me I have to put the saddle on and then climb on myself.
...and then you want saddle #9 and one of the red blankets. And her halter is on a hook with her name on it.
[note: read this with a southern accent y'all]
To cut a long story short, I now know how to fetch a horse, lead a horse, put a saddle and halter on a horse, and then adjust the stirrups. I am also not yet so feeble that I can't get on it myself. Left leg in the stirrup and haul on up. Pull the reins to the right to make it turn it right, left for left, kick your heels into its sides to make it go, another kick to make it go faster, pull the reins up to stop, pull them a bit again to reverse. Simple, even for a novice like me. A joystick would be easier - you could mount one on the pommel - but until somebody invents a digital horse interface we're stuck with the old fashioned approach.
|All ahead one third
I'll tell you what, it was OK. In fact I would go as far as to say it was good. Not that this was my holiday of course, it was genuinely all about Kate and she loved it, but all my fears evaporated after the first ride. For starters western saddles are built for the ample american backside and are thus very comfortable indeed. I had anticipated a bow-legged limp back to the ranch house every night, but not at all. Only after day 3 could I really detect even the mildest of ache, and I got out of bed each morning without so much as a groan. Most amazingly I even started patting my horse. Scratched its chin, tickled its ears, that sort of thing. She really was a lovely animal, uncomplaining, soft and gentle. Enormous for sure, but with a temperament that belied her size. I'm not saying that riding is my new all-consuming hobby, but I would not be adverse to going on another trip built specifically around horses. As a means for getting close to nature it is right up there - excellent 4x4 offroad ability - so perhaps somewhere with spectacular scenery and nightly camping on the trail. I am sure this must exist. And I could take my new hat....