I took a horseback ride last evening. 99% of my riding is done during the day. In my other life when the horses were in my back yard and the kids were small I often rode after the supper dishes were washed. There’s something a little bit magical about that time of day when the sun is low in the sky. The bird songs change. It’s like they are saying goodbye to the day, and calling everyone home. Riding through long shadows I’m alone on the trails, comfortable with a cooler breeze on my skin. And when the sun finally sinks behind the mountains there is the soft red light of sunset that paints the forest in hues of ochre.
I sure do love this horse of mine. “He’s my dog,” I tell people. “He comes when he’s called.” Memphis will be 19 years old on May 2. I learned how to ride on a horse that was 10 years older at 29. I was 5. Her name was Duchess. She taught many, many people including my little sister. My little sister never had my love for horses. She’s always been a bit afraid of them. Dad used to tell a story about my sister’s riding experience which explains her fear.
A group of us: cousins, aunts and uncles were out riding. We were on the last stretch, a half kilometer of dirt track before getting to the barn and the horses always wanted to run home. This day the group began to run and even those of us who didn’t want to go that fast were caught up in the melee. My sister began to scream and pull back on the reins as hard as she could. Duchess had a tough mouth; I don’t blame her considering all the years she had green riders on her back. In her mouth was a curb bit with long shanks so my sister was actually doing a fairly good job of pulling on her horse’s face and putting on a little brake. Duchess was cantering by then but she really wanted to go, my sister’s screaming wasn’t helping much and the group of horses ahead was covering them in dust. My sister had a death grip on the reins when Duchess just grabbed the bit with her teeth and poked her nose out and forward pulling my sister from the saddle. Dad, who was riding nearby, saw my sister launch from the saddle, still screaming until her teeth snapped shut when she hit the ground.
Kind of traumatic eh? Can’t say I blame her for not wanting to ride. I on the other hand, it didn’t matter how many times I came off a horse, I just got back on, all the more fired up about learning to ride. But I’m thinking this horse of mine is my last one. I’m too fragile to start a new horse. I don’t bounce like I used to when I fall off. I hope he lasts another 10 years and lives as long as Duchess did. There will come a day when he won’t be safe to ride, to hard on his old body. Maybe we’ll spend our time together learning a few tricks. After all, we’re not old dogs. Just an old horse and a (older) middle aged woman.