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My Last Riding Lesson

Despite being a city born and raised child, I have always loved horses. Maybe it was all the adventures of The Lone Ranger, Roy Rodgers, and Zorro that I watched that had this effect on me. Anyway, I have always loved horses and looked forward to the day when I could ride one.

When I was 16, I was afforded the chance to live my dream. My family and I along with our friends were driving through Port Clinton, Ohio when we saw a sign advertising horseback rides. The cost wasn't out of our range, so we all decided to ride.

We all were assigned a horse and spent about a half an hour with an instructor to ensure we could handle the animal. The rental place was situated on a large plot of land, and we were encouraged to gallop.

It took a little doing, but I figured out how to move with the motion of the animal and not bounce around in the saddle and winding up with a sore butt. It was easily one of the best hour and a half of that Summer. When I turned 18, I headed back to the rental place with my pockets stuffed with cash. I could now afford to be out there for two to three hours; you cannot imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the place no longer existed.

I tried to make due with local riding academies that were situated on the edge of the large park near my parent's house. While the horses were beautiful, this was a long slow plod along the park riding trails in the park and not to my liking.  So I gave up.

I remember I was in my mid-twenties and sitting at Denny's restaurant and flirting with Robin, the attractive waitress. Summer was almost upon us, and we spoke on a variety of topics in between her serving other customers. When the topic of Summer vacations came up, I related my riding story and how disappointed I was when I discovered that the place was gone.

She gave me a smile and informed me that she rode and owned her own horse. I was invited to join her on the coming Saturday; I was overjoyed. So on Saturday I collected her at her parent's house and was blown away by her appearance, she looked every inch a cowgirl in her tight jeans and boots.

Robin provided directions, and after about an hour ride we arrived at a riding academy and boarding stables. She led me through the buildings that housed the box stalls and was impressed that I was not offended my the smell of horse manure.

Robin informed me that her horse was called a paint horse in the class called a Tobiano - The tobiano is dark on one or both flanks with regular oval or round white areas over the neck and chest. The head markings are the same as a solid color horse; either solid or with a blaze, stripe, star or snip. Her name was Starchild.

Robin entered the stall and backed the horse out; I was now nose to nose with this magnificent beast. Robin instructed me how to interact with her horse, and I was informed that she liked me. She then instructed me on how to carry a saddle and then led her horse and me to the large indoor arena.

"It's where the horse shows are held, and it also doubles as a training area for jumpers," she informed me.

She saddled her horse and then mounted. She caused her mount to rear up on its hind legs like the Lone Ranger did in the movies and proceeded to gallop around the ring for a few minutes. She stopped in front of me and slid off.

"OK, your turn," she announced.

I told her that I was a little nervous about being in control of such a powerful beast. She walked to the side of the ring and returned with a long lead that she attached to the bridle.

"Now I can assist you," she said backing away and allowing the lead to extend to its full length. I impressed her again when I was able to mount properly.

"What do I hang onto?" I asked as she had removed the reigns.

"The saddle horn," she replied.

"How do I start her up?"

"Just give her a slight tap with your heels on her sides and make a clicking sound with your tongue," she responded with a laugh.

I grabbed the saddle horn and tapped my heels against her sides as I made the clicking sound. Starchild took off and spent about five minutes in a brisk trot.

"How do I stop her?" I finally asked.

"Grab a handful of mane and yell whoa," Robin instructed.

I did as instructed, but the horse didn't stop. I yelled again and tugged harder on her mane. The horse didn't slow down.

"Get me off this crazy animal," I yelled in a panicked voice.

Robin ran up to intercept us and grabbed Starchild by the side of her bridle.

"He said to stop," she told her horse, and it stopped dead. I quickly slid off the saddle and face first onto the soft ground.Robin rushed to my side and helped me up.

"You OK?" she asked.

"Yeah,"I responded brushing off the sawdust.

A small group of other riders were approaching, seems they heard my yell.

"Novice rider," she said over her shoulder.

The group stopped advancing and returned to what they were doing.

"This is my fault.I forgot to tell you that she is a trained barrel racer."

"What difference does that make?" I questioned as my heart rate returned to normal.

"When you told her to stop your feet banged her sides, that told her to keep going. She must trust you; otherwise, she'd have bucked you off in her confusion," I was informed.

As if in response, the horse nodded its large head and then pushed against my chest with her nose.

"What was that for?" I asked.

"She is scolding you," Robin responded.

I took my place at the side of the ring and watched Robin perform some tight turns with her horse, her control of this powerful animal was truly amazing.

"Excuse me, Sir," I heard a small voice say.

I looked down, and there was a little girl of about nine or ten dressed in Engish riding garb.

"How can I help you, little lady?"

"Would you please hold Elvis while I mount?"

I turned around and once again came nose to nose with a very large horse; it was even bigger than Robin's horse. I grabbed the horse by the side of the bridle as I had seen Robin do. The horse turned his head and watched as his little mistress grabbed a footstool and swiftly mounted. Once she was in the saddle and had hold of the reigns, he turned his large head forward, and I released him.

"Thank you," she said as she galloped away.

I then watched as this tiny female directed her mount to the jumping bars and cleared them all cleanly. I felt like a total loser,

"Was he keeping an eye on her?" I asked as Robin trotted over and dismounted

"Yes, he was. Horses are a lot smarter than people think. When she falls, he comes over to her and leans his head down so she can grab a handful of the bridle and he helps her stand up. No one taught him that."

"Amazing," was all I could say.

"So, you ready to try again?" Robin asked and extended the reigns to me.

 On seeing Robin, this Starchild took a step backward. She shook her head and stamped her hoof in what was clearly a gesture of disapproval. Robin tugged on the reigns, but Starchild refused to move.

"Well maybe not today," Robin added.

I made a few more visits with Robin to the stables, but Starchild refused to let me ride her. That's when I decided to stick to motorcycles.











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