Believe it or not, the highlight of my week is the one night I spend sitting in a horse arena.
For a few hours I leave the world behind and watch my daughter ride a horse. I live vicariously through her. That girl’s got courage I can’t comprehend.
It is amazing to see her handle a 600-pound horse with the confidence to lead it from the pasture to the arena, groom it and then hoist a saddle on the horse’s back, or pick the gunk out the horse’s hooves. Nothing makes my daughter happier.
I get a kick out of watching my child try to navigate the horse around a dressage ring, when the animal is every bit as stubborn as she is. It is an experiment in control and patience, sometimes a battle of wills for both horse and rider, or as I like to call it, karma.
But when I see the two of them work as a team, it is incredible.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told my daughter’s riding coach that though, because before I knew it, coach Lyssa insisted I take a turn.
Gulp. Lyssa brought me a horse that was 15 hands high (or for us non-horse folks, really freakin’ big). Her name was Princess (insert your own punch line here) and she was about to meet me, the Queen of Awkward.
I approached Princess slowly, cautiously but with fake confidence and waited for someone to bring me the step stool so I could hop on, like the little kids do.
Hop on? Right … more like request a crane and beg for mercy. There was no stool for adults. Lyssa told me to put my foot in the stirrup and hoist my other leg over the horse and sit tall in the saddle. Sure. No problem. Blocking out visions of hip replacement surgery and thanking the gods for stretch denim, I got my miracle. Seated in the saddle, I thought, “wow, I’m up.”
Then it hit me. “Holy crackers, I’m up and it’s a long way down.” With the help of a teenager who promised not to let go, I was led around the ring in what I am sure Princess would consider a pony ride for idiots.
But you know, in about five minutes I was so happy it was ridiculous. Yipee, this was fun.
After half an hour of appreciating my thighs and why I needed a pelvis, the ride was over. I could barely get on, how would I get down? This was going to be ugly. Lyssa instructed me to swing my right leg back and forth, gaining momentum to lift it over the back of the horse in one full swoop while, get this, letting the other foot come out of the stirrup and leaning forward to pivot so I could then slide off the side of the horse landing on two feet. Right.
After several hip-displacing swings I went for it, promptly kicking Princess in the hindquarter while I lay there sprawled in the saddle and half hanging on. I slid down all right, like a drunk gymnast. Lyssa laughed so hard she was doubled over while the students began to applaud. Princess yawned. My daughter cheered. She was proud.
“Next time, you might want to wear Depends, in case you want to try trotting,” Lyssa said, still bent over in laughter. Very funny.
Next time? Whoa. Who said anything about a “next time?”