There was a video on Facebook, a couple days ago, of two horses being loaded into a trailer. Ordinarily, I do not watch posted videos, because I really do not care about someones cat playing in a box, or a child eating his first solid food. Those videos usually are of interest to the owners, parents, assorted friends and relatives; but to me, not so much. However, the video of the horses caught my eye, because the man who was going to load them was quite a distance away from where they were grazing, and he was doing something interesting with his arm.
Picture a lush, pastoral scene, with a richly verdant carpet of grass, and dense foliage on distant trees; two horses are down a hill, grazing in the meadow, and a cowboy is standing up the hill looking toward the horses, with a trailer hooked up to a sizable pickup truck parked several yards from him. One can tell something is about to happen.
Granted, it was a video, so one should not be too surprised when the William Tell Overture begins playing, unless its being played is part of the whole process of what came next. The cowboy had a whip in his hand, and as he watched the horses, he raised it and cracked it twice. The whip tip, moving faster than the speed of sound, produced its own mini sonic boom that reverberated in the still country air.
The horses looked up as soon as they heard the whip snap, and immediately began loping across the meadow, and up the hill. The pace was even, and pure joy to observe. It was as though they had a designated path to follow, and both appeared eager and happy to be on it. With the exciting William Tell Overture as background music, the horses ran straight to the trailer, and with no need of assistance, slowed to a walk, and entered it; the cowboy completing his task by closing the gate, and locking them inside.
A good deal of my fascination watching this video stemmed from junior high and high school years working with, and riding horses. I never owned one, but my friends did, and they allowed me to share in the care, keeping, and riding life of teenage girls and their beloved horses. The ones in the video were sleek, magnificent, and cooperative. My horse experiences were not even close to what I watched. Not by a long shot.
I was given the privilege of riding and caring for a big, old, charcoal-black stumble foot named Smokey Joe. He was the most obnoxious creature, ever, and looking back on those years, I can find no redeeming quality, or flattering thing to say about him. And I do believe his opinion of me was the same.
There were no treats, grooming, kind words, or attention I paid to that animal that caused him to be anything but ornery. Yes, he was bad-tempered and combative, not given to obedience in any fashion, and took great satisfaction in whatever he could do to thwart my intentions to have fun-filled rides. I usually was beat by the time I got that beast saddled. This one effort was Herculean at best, because when he saw a blanket and saddle coming, he bloated himself up so the straps could not be tightly cinched. My friends used to tell me to knee him to make him exhale, but I could not do it with enough force to make him do anything but mock me. There also were plenty of attempts to bite and kick, but I was fairly adept at dodging those evil actions.
When a saddle finally was secured on Mean Joe, my friends and I would ride off down our endless country roads. Occasionally, we trotted or galloped, but mostly we just ambled. It was supposed to be pleasant. Unfortunately, that was not my lot. I believe Joe was the clumsiest horse ever to put hoof to earth. He stumbled constantly, and as he tripped and lunged, I was in constant fear he would fall with me underneath, crushed by a horse who probably did the whole thing on purpose, anyway.
And it was not only his clumsiness. That horse was one great big sack of methane gas. From the moment we started every ride, he started expelling his gas. Every step taken was in rhythm or syncopation with his flatulence. If I had been riding alone, this possibly could have been overlooked; however, when a thirteen or fourteen year old girl is riding horses down a country lane with a boy about whom she had fantasized and dreamed, there is no way to describe the embarrassment when every word is punctuated with her horse’s farts. And once the laughter started, it was impossible to regain any semblance of dignity. That horse put me at risk with his inability to just walk carefully, probably started the whole global warming problem with all his gaseous emissions, and ruined my image with the coolest boy I had ever met.
There was one other major issue with Mr. Mean Horse. And I have a diagonal scar across my forehead to show for it. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how insistent I was, that blasted horse would take off like a bullet shot from a gun when he saw his corral and barn. That was scary, and my position atop that awful horse precarious enough, but the worst part? At some point during his beeline toward the barn, he liked to abruptly stop, no warning at all. There were some times I was able to hang on, but there were many occasions I went flying off of him.
The worst of these experiences was one evening when I happened to be riding bareback, the horse decided to play his mean trick, and stop running toward the barn. I went airborne and flew over his head. My friend’s parents had an old cast-iron cook stove standing out in the back of their place, and I landed head first onto the top of it. Of all the frightening things that could have happened, the outcome was I had my bell rung considerably, and came up with a huge gash on my forehead.
That was the end of my riding days. There was only so much one could take from an animal who most likely was demon spawn. So, when I see well-trained, cooperative horses, complying good-naturedly with their owner, I think back on my days with Smokey Joe. He was awful, and no one should have been allowed to ride him. But that was then, and this is now. I do like the idea there are horses out there who do not have it in for their rider; however, the scar on my forehead reminds me this could be wishful thinking. And there are cool videos to watch from the safety of my home. “Back In The Saddle Again”? Definitely not my song.