Monday, August 22, 2011
She was eight years old and utterly smitten by her love of horses. Imagining herself perched atop a magnificent creature with mane and tail flying as they cantered over hill and dale, she clutched the two dollar bills she'd saved and approached the paddock where people were mounting up for a trail ride. The bored man who lifted her up onto the large brown horse after taking her money must have thought one of the other adults was her parent. Her toes barely touching the old wooden stirrups, she found herself at the end of the line of riders as the gate opened.
Up until then her only experience of horse riding had been on the back of a pony who was led around a patch of fairground. Now here she was excited and somewhat terrified from her vantage point so high above the ground. She waved to her surprised parents as she rode proudly past the picnic spot where they'd been chatting with other families while the kids played. It appeared their daughter wasn't on the swings after all.
Clutching the reins tightly, she kept the horse's head high slowing his pace as they climbed the hill to the top of the trail. When they arrived at the summit the great beast decided he felt like grazing and, since a horse's head and neck are far stronger and more determined than the grip of an eight year old girl, graze he did. Meanwhile she held tightly to the pommel and saw the line of trail riders were now far in the distance and just entering some woods. About two seconds later the horse realized the same thing.
He didn't really rear up or buck like you'd see at a rodeo but what he did do was enough to unseat her. A fall can be nasty but not generally serious for a smallish child, especially if she lands on grass. However, in this case her left foot slipped through the stirrup at the moment the horse decided it was time he caught up with his friends. The trail had been ridden in the same way for years so the path was a narrow and rather deep channel that kept her head and shoulder very close to his back hooves as he galloped along. Twisting her upper body as best she could she kept out of the way long enough for one of the trail guides to have seen what was happening and race back to stop her horse.
Luckily, she was all right once she'd been helped up and dusted off. Although the guide offered to walk her back to her parents in the main picnic ground she wanted to finish the ride. He helped her back into the saddle, adjusted the stirrups to a comfortable spot, and stayed close by from then on. There were even a couple of places where they raced with each other on the way back to the stables.
An hour or so later she was back with her parents in time for ice cream.
Her mother never mentioned the state of her dress.