[Slightly edited re-post from my former blog]
I had a little misadventure on Saturday, and decided to turn it into a short
This is copyrighted (c) to Hannah Mills and SwordOfInk.com, and may not be copied for any reason or in any form without direct permission. Thank you, and enjoy!
After enlisting my brother’s help in wrestling with the utterly uncooperative spurs and leather straps for upwards of fifteen minutes, and after finding out that the pair with the straps
attached don’t fit and that we then have to wrest the straps off that pair and worm them onto the larger pair, I finally walk out the door, the spurs making a very cowboyish clinking sound with each stride I take.
A grin spreads across my face. They sound cool, but the straps need another hole punched in them; the spurs keep jiggling around, bouncing up and down. I don’t have time to do that today. I only have so much time to ride; tonight Dad is giving a presentation
at church, and I am going early with him to help set up. So I need to get out
there and ride soon, otherwise I will not have time to get ready to help Dad.
Grab the tack out of the garage. Round Becky up, give her a quick brush-down, clean
her hooves and spritz her with bug spray. Slide the bit into her mouth. Cinch up the girth strap.
All set, with my helmet in place, the foam inserts pressing a little too snugly
against the sides of my head. The sun is warm, pelting my head and shoulders, glistening off Becky’s dark coat and making the leather of the saddle shine. Hot, but not as oppressive as yesterday. Or the day before, when temperatures climbed up to 105F.
I mount up and head off, trying to figure out exactly where my spurs are in space, and how close is too close when I am not wanting her to go anywhere but straight and at the same evenly paced walk. We head to the orchard, and I rub my left heel against her flank, trying not to poke her with the rowel. Her tail swishes in slight annoyance; she doesn’t want to turn. I press the spur against her with a bit more pressure, and lay the left rein firmly across her neck. She turns, her ears flicking back and forth.
We head down between the rows of trees to the open space of land beyond; it is about the size of some show rings, or a small arena. She dislikes the spurs already as we walk and trot across that strip of land. She prances and sidesteps, quite a lot of spunk for a twenty-two year old horse! But then, she has always had spunk.
Oops, we just found that doggone hole, the one that I couldn’t locate because the grass is too thick and high. Thank You, God, that she didn’t break her leg! She wants to go faster. Fine with me, but is she warmed up enough? I think she needs more time before we can canter or gallop, we’ve only been going for about five minutes. I guess we’ll just fast-trot. We turn around, and she snorts again and starts acting up as the spurs jingle about. I think they must be bumping her sides, even though I am trying to keep my heels turned out a bit. Stupid stirrups, they are still too long! It is hard to keep a good seat and keep my feet in the right position at the same time. Maybe I should have used my English saddle today? That one fits right. Oh well. I haven’t ridden Western for a while anyways.
She’s tugging on the reins. Faster still? She’s already eating up the ground at a spankin’ trot. If I let her go faster when she’s in this mood, she will try to get her head and take us toward the barn. Again. She throws up her head, then ducks it down, and kicks up her heels.
“Easy, girl,” I say, trying to keep her head up.
Stupid stirrups! I need them to be the right length! I can ride out bucks so much better when my feet are firmly where they need to be. The spurs must be hitting her again. Oh blast, she’s getting out of control! She’s bucking harder, faster, speeding near some saplings. Steer her away, you say? I can’t! We’ll smash into that other row of trees if I do!
I’m going to get hit in the face with the branches. I just lost my left stirrup. She’s still bucking. Give and take on the reins. Grip the saddle horn with my other hand. Gotta stay on. Gotta stay on.
I’m going, I know it. I can’t keep on, not with these trees in the way, not with the way she is freaking out.
Has she ever bucked this hard before?! She’s acting like a three-year-old in a rodeo. Wow, this is a lot from such an old horse!
I’m going. Going. Going.
I’m flying off. Make sure my right foot gets out of the stirrup! I can’t be dragged! I’m sailing through the air.
I hit the ground hard. I can’t breathe. The wind is knocked clean out of me. I
hurt. Why am I grunting? I sound like Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. I roll onto my side, then onto my stomach. Why am I making these weird noises? I can’t
stop! Every time my body tries to take a hitching breath, all that happens
is a strange, garbled sound. I can’t stop them, even though I try.
It feels like something is squeezing my chest. I roll onto my back again, staring up at the walnut tree leaves above me. I can finally breathe again.
Did I land on my back or my stomach? I can’t remember. My chest hurts with each breath. Somehow, my glasses didn’t go flying off. That’s good. Where’d Becky go? Oh, please not to the
W----‘s, or down to the road. I hold still, waiting.
After a few moments I slowly sit up. Nothing broken, that’s good. How stupid of me; if only I’d taken the few extra moments to punch another hole in the spur straps. I pull myself to my feet.
Where should I start looking for Beck? I trudge through the knee-high grasses. I still hurt. But I’m intact. I see Becky standing in front of the barn, swishing her tail and grabbing at some weeds. Thank You, God.
I unfasten the spurs and leave them on the sidewalk, thinking that I just might keep them for photography and aesthetic purposes only, retiring them from active duty.
I mosey over and start sweet-talking in a sing-songy voice to my ornery horse. I can’t get mad
at her, well, not too mad. It was rather my fault she threw me. She’d been telling me before she started to buck that the spurs were driving her batty. I pick up the reins, thankful that she didn’t step on one of them and hurt her mouth. I tell her I’m sorry, that I shouldn’t have ignored her. And I can’t help but make mention that even though I didn’t listen, she didn’t have to throw such a fit.
I lead her back over to the grass, out of the rocks. If I don’t get back on now, it’ll be harder the next time. Yeah, my back hurts. Yeah, I still have a funny hurt in my chest when I breathe. But
I have a ride to finish. Without spurs, I assure her, and rub my feet against her barrel to prove it. I make her go back the way we came, and retrace part of our route at the same speed, minus
Now? Now I have a need for speed. Even if she bucks again, which she often will out of the sheer fun of it. So we head off to the neighbor’s apple orchard to see if the apples are ready to pick, stopping along the way to talk to my grandma, who is out pulling weeds in her yard. I try to make light of my incident as we chat, but she worries and fusses. I assure her I’m fine.
After sharing a couple of apples, Becky and I are careening around the front of the
neighbor’s property. She eyes an overhanging pine branch, almost as though she is thinking about swerving me into it. But she doesn’t, with a little help from me.
I ignore the nagging, annoying, weird feeling in my chest and just enjoy the speed. I could ride at this gait for an hour, it is so amazing. But she’s getting sweaty; her coat under the saddle blanket is wet. I need to get ready for church anyway.
So we head home, stopping on the way to say hi to Dad and my youngest brother, who
are leaving our driveway to run an errand.
I un-tack Becky, clean her up and feed her, and lug the tack back to the garage. I feel really tired now, like when you crash after running on adrenaline. I probably was on an adrenaline high, from the way my heart rate skyrocketed while I was getting thrown, I think.
Mom nearly panics when I tell her of my misadventure. Teasingly, she says that I should just quite riding.
“But that would be like saying to quit doing everything!”
She laughs. “Then quit doing everything!”
“Okay. I’m not doing the dishes any more, because that’s doing something!” I say with a
smirking grin, pointing out that while yes, I could have been badly hurt or killed today, she could drop dead just standing there talking to me. No matter what we’re doing, when it’s our time, we are going to go. So I just don’t worry about it.
She rolls her eyes, making some comment or other about me being a smart-aleck or something like that.
I can’t help but grin. Boy, am I going to be sore tomorrow. But hey, I learned something. And I might even try those spurs again-- once the straps are fixed.