Friday, April 29, 2005

Show 'em Who's Boss


I have a love/hate relationship with horses. I love them, they hate me. We didn't have a lot of first-hand contact with horses in Brookyn (except for this one who was used as a prop for a photographer outside the local Thom McAnn shoe store), but I did have an uncle who lived in the country who had a few horses that we were completely crazy about.

In the city, my sisters and I would pretend to gallop up and down the block, whipping our butts and yelling "Yah! Yah!" The '60s was a big decade for television Westerns and I watched every one of them, falling in love with the lead cowboy in each show. Bronco, Sugarfoot, Maverick... I was going to marry all of them.

When I was about 14, my friends and I decided to go horseback riding at a stable near a park in Queens. "Dixie Dew" had quite the selection of nags, er...steeds. We would go out weekly, with the trail instructor screaming "Show 'em who's boss!!"

I was usually terrified, and apparently this fear is something these animals can feel or smell or something. One week, a horse brought me under low branches so I arrived home with a scraped up face. Another time, he walked into a deep pool of water, stirrup-high, and refused to move. The trail crossed a pretty busy highway, so of course another horse I rode decided to stop dead in the middle while drivers in both directions were forced to wait. (the car horn was invented in New York, so we like to use it as often as possible. That day was no exception.) Every week my mother would ask me WHY I kept going back, when it seemed like one disaster after another. I sort of agreed, but I was still determined to show at least one of these horses who was boss.

Finally, we went back and everything seemed to be going along just fine. My friend Andrea and I were riding side by side, clopping along like a couple of seasoned cowpokes. Suddenly, her horse began to do "the bump' with my horse. He swung his big fat hips right into my guy, and mine returned the favor. Andrea began to scream. The trail instructor calmly told her to please stop screaming because...Too late. At that point, my horse took off, galloping at full speed blindly through the woods. Off the trail. I lost the stirrups and was hanging on for dear life, arms wrapped around his neck. My body slid forward and I dropped to the ground in front of him. I looked up and saw his hooves as he stepped on my legs. (I had the presence of mind to think "wow...this is just like those stampedes on "Wagon Train'!)

Before I could get up, the horse stopped and turned around, apparently determined to run me over again. ("I get it! You're the boss! Alright already!", I thought.) In the meantime, the instructor had found me, grabbed the horse and hoisted me and my balloon (formerly known as a leg) onto his back. My injuries were limited to contusions in my calf and the unpleasant task of saying 'You were right." to my mother.

I don't ride horses anymore, but I still love them. And Andrea is still my friend.

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