Horseback Riding Horror This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 13, 2010
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My panicked screams filled the air, accompanying the clomping of the speeding horse’s hooves on the hard gravel path. Muscles beginning to ache, my grip on the worn reins was sliding. I had to stay on, couldn’t fall… couldn’t… but I was. The steed was coming dangerously close to the edge of the steep, woody hill, and I was unable to change its direction…
It was my second year at camp, and I was having a blast. I was really excited to go horseback riding on a trail for the first time in my life. Earlier that week, we had only walked our horses in circles around barrels as we practiced changing directions. That was easy stuff. Now, it was time for the real thing.
As I crunched along the gravel path, the not-so pleasant scent of the stables growing stronger with every step, I thought with excitement ‘maybe we’ll even be able to trot today!’ Too bad I got what I was hoping for.
I got on my assigned horse, feeling the strong saddle beneath my jean-covered legs. I gently petted its soft neck as I waited for the other campers to mount their horses. The stench of damp hay and the horses’ stalls was powerful in my nose, and I was eager to go into the pine-scented forest. We formed a straggled line, and headed off.
As the horse made its way cautiously down the steep, mud-covered hill, I focused intensely. By the time the horses sloshed through the small, clear stream that flowed over the path, I was already enjoying myself.

The cavalry of horses made their way through the silent woods, while my eyes took in the colorful berries, fallen trees, and evidence from past visitors. Careful not to whack my helmet-covered head on overhanging branches, I was in a great mood.
The forest started thinning, slowly revealing a desert-like trail. The ground, which had been muddy and littered with leaves, made way to a light, sandy path. The trees lined the edges, far away from the hoof-printed trail, where they had previously been, and the occasional small patch of bushes appeared. Even the pine scent was replaced by a dusty, arid smell. Nonetheless, it was still very nice, but for the power lines looming over us.
We looped around, and started heading back to the stables at the wonderful Camp Chi. We soon made another routine pause, to let the riders straggling in the back catch up to the group. Instead of slowing down to a halt, my horse continued walking. I lightly pulled back on the reins, just to give the horse a reminder to stop. No luck; he kept walking. My heart began to beat quicker, and I was starting to feel panicky. We were almost in front of everyone else and the specialist kept telling me to pull back the reins. I was, with a good amount of strength.
At that point, a kind horse probably would’ve stopped, but of course, with my luck, as soon as we got in front of the instructor, it started trotting. I had never trotted on a horse before, and was getting pretty nervous as we bumped further away from the group. I continued yanking on the reins, but was completely ignored.
I had no idea where we were going, so I did what a scared girl might do in this type of situation: I screamed. This time the horse responded to my fear, by speeding up to a canter. I gripped the horn and continued screaming. The evil horse continued speeding up, and this time
to almost a gallop. I thought we were totally lost. As the branches that were whipping at me grew denser, I screamed even louder.
The horse was, as it seemed, trying to hurl me off its back. I hung on to the horn and reins, my only hope of staying on, for dear life. My feet were unable to stay in the stirrups; I was constantly sliding almost off the saddle. I had a feeling I would be bruised for a few days.
After an unknown amount of time (I was too busy trying not to fall to the unforgiving ground) I ran out of breath. My throat was so dry I could barely swallow the air I was trying to gulp into my lungs. As I tried to catch my breath, the horse’s frantic pace slowed, to my disbelief. I stopped screaming altogether, and the scenery of trees and brush began to take form from the blur they had been. I could hear the horse’s heavy breathing along with my own. The lonely silence of the forest frightened me. My eyes adjusted, gulping in details, frantically searching for familiarity; a way back to camp. I thought myself lost, for I saw no one else on the gravelly path. My heart began to steady as the horse walked away from the steep edge we had been hurtling towards. It finally stopped altogether, and I gratefully filled my lungs with the air they were screaming for.
I slowly dismounted, keeping its reins in my hand, and quietly waited, hoping the group would find me and catch up. I found that I could just barely stand, because my legs were shaking uncontrollably. The specialist came riding up soon after. She gave me a much-needed hug and some assurance. The rest of the group followed a couple minutes later. I rode the kind specialist’s horse the rest of the way back.

It turns out that the horse had gotten excited when it reached the front of the group and just wanted to go back to the stable, so it started off on its own. My screaming had spooked it into speeding up its pace. I quit horseback riding that day. Though I thought I would never want to go again, I faced my fear the next year and attempted it a second time (and yes, it went pretty well).
That event was actually pretty helpful, though I would never want to experience it again. I was able to conquer one of my fears. I had somewhat of a good time. I figured out why people always say “stay calm” in frightening situations. Most importantly, I realized that it’s not a good idea to let out your inner hysteric while riding a horse.

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