Horses are grand animals. Although we assist cats and dogs at the Meriden Humane Society, I think horses are great, despite three personal experiences with them that read like a clinical case record in post-traumatic stress. I can laugh about it now (it makes for great party stories), so I share my anecdotes so that others can laugh with me.
As a youth aged ten or less, I went for my first horse ride. Because of my age and inexperience, this occurred inside a corral. Since it was so long ago, I am fuzzy on the details, save one. For some reason, the horse did not seem motivated to walk with me aboard. He (she?) took the first opportunity to stop and press his body up against the wooden fence posts. I panicked that the horse was going to crush my leg. End of horse ride…strike one….
More than ten years later, I tried again. This time I was with three college buddies on summer break. We decided to visit New Hampshire’s the White Mountains and go horseback riding. I approached this with more than mild trepidation because of my childhood experience. However, being a psychology major, I did a good job of calming self-talk, convincing myself that I was a child then and an adult now and this new experience was going to be a positive, corrective one. I was successfully quieting myself until I saw the sign indicating that riders ride at their own risk and that the stable is not responsible for bodily injury.
Nevertheless, I persevered. The stable hand saddled all four horses and we rode away, first at a walk, then a trot. Apparently, the stable hand had not done such a good job in saddling my particular horse, because as its speed increased, I felt myself slipping sideways. Within an instant, my saddle and I hit the ground. Luckily I landed in mud so I was no worse for the wear, except my clothing was now a different color. End of horse ride…strike two….
My third experience was a few years later. This time I was a Big Brother to two inner-city teenagers who were experienced and enthusiastic about horseback riding. Since my only experiences were the two traumatic attempts already described, I was considerably more suspect about making a connection with a horse. Nevertheless, based on the boys’ experience, they convinced the stable owner that we did not need a guide. That was my first mistake of the day.
We proceeded on horseback at a walk into the woods. The two brothers decided that they wanted their horses to gallop. “Wait,” I insisted immediately, proud that I was anticipating horse psychology. “If you’re going to gallop, I’m going to get off my horse because he’ll want to follow you and he’ll start to gallop, too. After you’re gone, I’ll get back on.”
Getting off my horse went fine and the two brothers galloped off. It was time for me to get back onto my horse and catch up. Apparently, the horse had a different idea. As I tried to get back on, he turned his head and gave me a shove off the path into the woods. When I tried again, he gave me the same message – nothing doing. I walked back to the stables leading the horse by the reins. End of horse ride…strike three….
This last attempt at horseback riding was thirty years ago. Maybe someday I’ll get some therapy to get over the trauma. I’m in no hurry, though. I don’t expect to go horseback riding anytime soon.
Gregory Simpson is Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Meriden Humane Society, Inc., a no-kill shelter incorporated by Connecticut legislative charter in 1893. He is also a past state advisor to the national organization, Friends of Animals, Inc. In the December 2005 issue of CAT FANCY, he was named one of the 40 Ultimate Cat Lovers in the U.S.