Tell me your true stories, and I’ll tell you mine.
Mom and I had a brilliant UK-trained riding instructor when I was 13-14. Her teaching provided us with much of our foundation, as well as more advanced riding skills. It was true of both Debbie and Maryanne, who taught us at the very beginning and at the end. We told them both that we blamed them for our abilities, and thanked them.
We were devastated when Debbie left that lesson stable. We quit riding not too long after that, briefly rode again when I was in my V late teens, and then picked it up once more when I was around 30.
I’d hoped we’d see Debbie again one day, and while still in my mid-teens I began thinking of what on Earth I should say to her when we met. I was a real PITA, like all 13-y-o kids, but I’d had the added charm of being an unfocused and unathletic ADHD PITA.
After almost fifteen years of thinking about it, at last I knew exactly what to say.
Debbie judged one of the pupils’ horse shows I took part in at the riding school when I was 30ish. After my class, she had a short break, and mom and I went over and said hello. Debbie grinned as much as we did, and then I told her,
“Debbie, I’d long hoped we’d see you, and I spent fiften years trying to figure out what I would say.” I looked Very Serious, and said,
“Debbie, I’m so sorry I was thirteen!”
All three of us lost it and about ROTFL.
Fast forward several years. A friend who’d gone to Debbie’s from our riding school told me a brilliant story about her.
Debbie was teaching a class of PITA early adolescent girls. Her patience was sorely tried, and she finally shouted at them,
“I saw a former student a few years ago, and she said she’d spent fifteen years figuring out what to say to me when we finally met again! She said,
It is a fond hope that one or more of those girls will say the same to her someday.
All blessings to all the great riding instructors! May all of you be paid what you truly deserve. More power to your patience, and your elbows.
I enjoyed riding as a teen. We’d visit a family friend who owned a farm, and I took lessons there. However, that didn’t prepare me at all for my last riding experience as an adult.
My mother and I went on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in the early '90s. There was an excursion included with a hotel package - a booze cruise with snorkeling, with a break for lunch in a hillside restaurant. The booze part of the boat ride was fun, but I declined the snorkeling. Mom struck up a conversation with a woman who was traveling solo (we’ll call her Sue), and she told us that water was too choppy and murky to see anything.
After disembarking on a beach before lunch, we were given a choice to ride on horseback or in a bus. Sue and I chose the horses, and my mother went by bus. It didn’t take me a minute to realize my mistake, because those horses had probably been making the same journey from the beach up the hillside for many years. Rider or not, they knew the drill. When given the signal, they all just took off. The horses were having great fun racing to our destination, while the riders just focused on keeping their seats. After arriving at the top of the hill, where the rest of the herd was hanging out, my horse plunged right into the middle of the paddock. There were a few wranglers around, offering absolutely no help.
I dismounted, and somehow managed to ease my way out of there without getting kicked in the head. My hands were shaking from a combination of fear and anger. It was clear that there was no concern for our safety. Sue and I found my mother at a table in the restaurant, and proceeded to have a drink before lunch to calm our nerves. While describing our wild ride, we both agreed not to ride back to the beach - once was more than enough. Seats on the bus were limited, though. We ate quickly to leave enough time to walk back down and meet up with the group for the boat ride back. That was the second major mistake.
What I noticed walking the trail was how deeply rutted that path had become. There was a high fence on either side of the path above a few feet of eroded soil, and a scrubby tree in the middle of the trail about halfway down. The dirt had been so displaced that roots of the weeds growing along the fence were exposed on both sides, as well as roots from the tree.
Suddenly, we heard a loud noise. We turned around, and there were the horses coming back down! I think Sue and I locked eyes for a second in terror. I ran straight ahead, and she went for the fence, jumped, and hung on for dear life. I made it to the tree and braced myself behind it. I must’ve closed my eyes to pray or something, and was bumped on either side a few times but managed to stay upright until they passed by.
When I opened my eyes, there was still a cloud of dust in the air. Sue was OK, too, but we were both shaken by nearly being trampled. Our clothes and hair were streaked with dirt. After walking the rest of the way we gave the horses on the beach a wide berth, got back on the boat, and ended the day with more tequila shots.
Haven’t ridden a horse since, because not long after that trip Christopher Reeve had his accident. What went through my mind then were all the times I rode without a helmet. It didn’t seem worth it to take that risk anymore. Sometimes I do miss it…but seeing a travel ad with people riding horses on a beach just makes me say…
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