Some Trust In Horses

According to The Great Book of Horse Knowledge, a good horse-rider relationship is based on trust. A horse that harbors reservations about the creature on top may not always perform the way the creature on top expects. Without trust, the rider must rely on brute force, and while there is equipment that can help in this regard, horses pretty much have us whipped in the brute strength category. Trust is the way to go. The Great Book says inexperienced riders often believe that horse-rider trust is a two way street. It's not. Just because a horse trusts you, does not mean you should trust him. No matter how honorable or noble you think a horse is, you should never, ever fully trust him. I don't need The Great Book to know horses can't be trusted. I know it from experience. Although I'm not a horseback rider, every decade or so, a sinister force enters my brain and disables the area that contains good sense. Under this disability, I forget all the humiliations and injuries of the past, and climb aboard one of my daughters' horses. And an old lesson is relearned. Not too long ago, I relearned the old lesson on Eddie, my daughter Jamie's Morgan. After helping me into the saddle, Jamie attempted a bit of remedial instruction, but neither Eddie nor I were listening. He was too busy walking away and I was too busy trying to figure out how to stop him from walking away. I figured I needed to get his attention, so I gave him a swift kick with the heels. Inexplicably, Eddie broke into a trot - the least dignified form of mobility known to man. We left the yard and jolted onto the dirt road in front of our house. A good riding instructor would have had plenty to say about my riding form at that moment. Having dropped the reins in favor of wrapping both hands around the saddle horn, I settled into what The Great Book calls a "relaxed panic". With one foot in a stirrup and the other out, I kept glancing back at Jamie, hoping she could pull something from her bag of equitation tricks. Save for waving her arms and shouting tips such as "slow down" and "come back", she was fresh out. Even a poor riding instructor would have suggested I at least look in the same direction that the horse was going. This I did, but only out of pure curiosity. My current riding strategy was the same strategy I employ in life: hang on and hope everything turns out okay. Down the road we went. After several attempts to dismount while in motion, we came upon old Floyd Patterson out raking his yard. I thought about offering a few words of explanation. I knew that Floyd would assume that the creature on top was directing the creature below and would want to know how the creature on top could do much directing while riding sideways in the face down position. Furthermore, I felt that any inquires regarding the speed, direction, and purpose of our jaunt should be directed to Eddie since I had no input on any of this. However, all Floyd wanted to know was when I planned on returning his wheelbarrow. Since neither Eddie nor I could answer that, I simply nodded and smiled. We were running out of road. The dead end ahead gave Eddie one of two choices: to the left, there were miles of riding trails, familiar to him but not to me, OR to the right and Mrs. Barker's front yard. Eddie chose Mrs. Barker's front yard. Eddie planted his face in Mrs. Barker's sweet, green grass and proceeded to munch. This, I surmised, had been our destination all along. I was simultaneously impressed and frightened that he thought this far ahead. And I was grateful to no longer be in motion. I was not pleased, however, by the appearance of Mrs. Barker on her front porch. She was brandishing a broom. Since her porch was clean, I feared the implement was intended for a less traditional purpose. I was inclined to explain my predicament and ask Mrs. Barker for understanding and patience while I sorted out a solution. However, Mrs. Barker was not a good listener. Mrs. Barker was a lady of action. Her late husband, Mr. Barker, died several years ago out of self defense and left Mrs. Barker and her two hounds of uncertain pedigree in charge of defending the property against interlopers such as grass eating horses and their hostages. Mrs. Barker stomped off her porch, asking questions which I regarded as rhetorical. To be sure, I wanted to get off "this thing", but not in the sudden and violent manner she was proposing. Furthermore, I did not consider a broom handle an appropriate dismounting aid. She came at us like Sammy Sousa at the plate. With his keen sense of danger, Eddie responded to the threat by munching faster. This was a heck of a time to turn the critical decision making over to me. In desperation, I found the reins and pulled back as hard as I could. That got his attention. Or perhaps it was Mrs. Barker's home run swing, barely brushing my knee cap, but catching Eddie on his rear flank. Spurred to action, Eddie broke into a graceful canter. I had mixed feelings about this. On the plus side, a moving target is harder to hit then a stationary one. But I wasn't exactly thrilled about Eddie's decision to run in circles. Not only did this pattern fail to get us out of Mrs. Barker's yard, but it also took us through her flower garden with each pass. Eddie was fast, but with the advantage of an interior position Mrs. Barker was able to close in for several near misses. Her over the head, two-handed swings were impressive, but connected with nothing but the ground. With each miss the rage in her face grew. Beneath this growing rage did she note, as I did, that Eddie was doing a series of near perfect ten meter circles? We needed a judge! We got one. In a just world, Eddie would have to appear in court instead of me. I was more like an innocent bystander, a witness at most. But then again, I'm glad he wasn't called in front of the judge. I really don't trust him.

Bob Goddard is a freelance writer who lives in Michigan.

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