Monday, August 22, 2011

the rider

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.


  1. Love this. What a brave or naive girl. And did it matter? Absolutely not.

  2. Shoot, I hit publish too soon.

    This makes me wonder if I do a good enough job of not causing a ruckus when my kids follow an adventure. Whatever adventures they've had, they've managed to survive and hopefully enjoy. Fingers crossed I've had the good sense not to mention the state of their dress.

  3. Wow Susan, if that had been me I wold never had gotten on the back of a horse again.

    Another wonderful story!

  4. Oh yes. I'm glad your mum didn't mention the state of your dress!

  5. A delightful story and drawing, Susan! Should be in a book...

  6. lisa - I think headstrong would be the correct descriptor but it turned out okay.

    You're doing a wonderful job of letting your children follow their own adventuresome spirits by always being there for them. No parents can do more.

    jams - It was pretty scary but I think the most frightened person was the guy who raced back to rescue me.

    My mother was a very wise woman.

    marja-leena - Thank you so much. I think this has already become a book, don't you?

  7. She was and is delightful!

    My mother wouldn't have allowed me on the horse, never mind ignored the state of my dress!

    Why did you ask about the perm, or did I miss something? interesting that I told you about my perm before reading this and that is the age of your adventure. :-)

  8. gina - I think if my mother had known my plan I wouldn't have been allowed on the horse either.

    I asked that because the girl in this drawing had one as did I at eight. I didn't like it either. :-)

  9. What a story - wonderfully told and even more wonderfully illustrated, as usual! The height of the horse and the girl's impatience are captured perfectly.

    I would have gone crazy, I think, if one of mine had ridden past at age 8... The state of dress was never something we disapproved (though it's fun to laugh about it together). We have allowed all manner of messy play in streams and woods, of course.

    I've never had a perm. My Dad used to have my Mom perm his hair, though, in the eighties and early nineties. He looked good with curly hair.

  10. what a courageous little sprite! and what sensible adults.... i'm not sure many these days would even LET her get back on the horse.... she'd be in an ambulance with a lawyer.....

  11. Someone's not thinking of the children.

  12. steve - I'm always glad to read your remarks about a new picture. I've transferred this one to a watercolor board as the next painting project.

    I think adults back then were less worried about the potential disasters. It's good you and your wife allowed your kids all the messiness involved in enjoying their childhoods.

    Yes, perms for men were quite fashionable for a while.

    gfid - I think I was a pretty headstrong little sprite but I survived. You're certainly right about the modern reaction.

    randal - Just as well in my opinion.

  13. how funny.... you were and still are one courageous little person, aren't you.... i adore the look on both faces in this... how do you do that? i guess you must know what you are doing !!! finally it dawns... sigh..... my parents wouldn't have noticed were i to drive by ala horse but she would have had one if i had mussed my dress... brave of you to just get back on too. ;)

    as for perms, mine's naturally curly, the bane of my existence for the first 29 years of my existence... now it's good. ;)

  14. linda - I really, really wanted to ride on a horse so I grabbed the opportunity. It would have been better if I'd known what I was doing though. I'm pretty sure the dress was a write-off.

    Your curls really do suit you now and I'm sure they always did :-)

  15. Seems to me that only one who was familiar with horses and riding could make this so real.

    I am proud of that little girl. I like her a lot!

  16. lydia - I got to know more about horses later but that first lesson was a doozie.

    I like the reader a lot too.

  17. dear susan,

    i need to share that spadoman needs our help. i have posted a communal prayer post for him. please follow my link over and sign a comment for joe. if you would like to create a post for him, a kind of virtual card that would be wonderful and i am collecting links there too.
    he is in the hospital and i think we can help him rally.
    thanks friend.

  18. the confidence of the young to be dusted off and get straight back on the horse. health and safetly would have a field day with this now. much they would have with a lot of my childhood.... I slightly regret the aches and pains caused by many an adventure, but only slightly....
    dreams can bring you back to earth with a bump and i think we should be allowed to find out if we bump or if we can fly.

  19. rebecca - Thanks for stopping by when you did.

    claire - I remember when I got back on the horse the trail leader adjusted the stirrups for me and that made riding a whole lot easier. You're right that child protection people would go bananas over such a thing today but I'm glad too I was able to learn my own limits. Thanks for your good thoughts.

  20. Your line work is very dynamic and energetic. Fun and lively artwork.