Laverne H. Bardy
I had thought about taking horseback riding lessons. It was something I wanted to do for a long while. However, well-intentioned friends cautioned, “You’re way too old, for heaven’s sake. You could break your bones.” As if broken bones would be less convenient or painful at a younger age.
I had been on a horse twice: once when I was four years old to have my picture taken and again in the late 1980s with a tour guide along Arizona’s rugged Red Mountain trails. I loved it; I was advised that if I wanted to know more than how to get on, stay on, and get off, I’d have to take lessons.
Luckily, I live in the country. A little investigating led me to Chip, a leathery old horse trainer who’d been teaching horseback riding for over thirty-two years. One look at me and he determined that Clementine and I would be a perfect match. Her tired, sagging frame had her belly barely missing the ground and her flashing, threatening eyes dared me to mount her.
My first lesson was a disappointment. Chip assumed I would be interested in learning how to brush her mane, and a number of other boring things; all of which went in one ear and out the other.
All I wanted to do was ride.
My third lesson took place on a scorching day in August. I was doing just fine riding in circles around the enclosed, sweltering arena. But Chip instructed me to squeeze my legs to get Clementine to trot and pull the reins back when I wanted her to slow down. So, I squeezed my legs gently and, suddenly, Clementine’s tired old body, fired by her resentment for me, mustered up the same trajectory as the stone from David’s slingshot.
I let out a shrill, terrified scream, which startled Clementine to a gallop. She was out of control.
Frantically, I pulled back on the reins to get her to slow down, but I couldn’t help involuntarily squeezing my legs at the same time in a desperate effort to keep from falling off. The horse was confused by my mixed commands, but she never stopped to ask questions. Instead, she bolted and I reacted by squeezing even tighter which, of course, caused her to sprint even faster.
There I was, bouncing up and down, up and down, up and down, and Clementine was going down and up, down and up, down and up. We were totally out of sync. But she was not the only one out of control. Every time we collided, I peed, and there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. We collided. I peed. We collided. I peed.
Finally, my instructor, who had been racing to catch up with us, caught hold ofClementine’s reins and got her to stop. I was now faced with a new crisis—how to dismount without Chip seeing what I’d done to his beautiful leather saddle. I was mortified, so I simply slid down off the saddle and said with great aplomb,“This arena is an oven. I cannot believe how much I sweated.”
One look at the saddle and he had to have known what really happened, but what could I do? So, I thanked God that I’d worn black slacks that didn’t reveal my secret.
Humiliation, aching legs, and the anticipation of driving something I could control propelled me toward my car. I started the motor, floored it, and never returned, something for which, I’m certain, both Chip and Clementine are grateful.
Laverne Bardy is the author of “Driving Backwards on a One-Way Street: A Savvy Senior’s Map to Finding Humor in Everything.”She also writes a nationally syndicated column, Laverne’s View. How to order the book, as well as general information about Laverne, can be found at lavernebardy.com.