Horseback Riding

May 24, 2010
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The saddle, the bridle, the bit, the girth, the martingale. The reins gripped firmly in my gloved hands, tugging at the animal’s jaw. Like Englishmen with their hounds and red jackets tirelessly searching for the fox.

Arabian, Friesian, Lipizzan, Morgan. Appaloosa, in the pacific northwest, in 1877 with a Nez Perce atop its back. His people, fighting for their dignity, their land, and their history, destroyed by Howard, Miles, and Sturgis.

The wind whooshing in my ears masks the crunch of hoof striking sand. The standards approach. Just as he lifts his legs in preparation for the leap, I lean forward, just a bit. The world stops

Just for a moment. Both bodies hanging in the air, floating over poles, making a long graceful shadow. The air seems to quiet just for us. My stomach lurches with the thrill. Ground flies up to meet us

And then hooves collide with sand. My toes strain against the stirrups, trying to stay between both withers. The animal lurches under me, and I squeeze my heels into his ribs, urging him forward.

One, two, three, four, five strides. Again, in the air, soaring over crossed poles. Another lurch. Another pause, broken only by the ground. I draw back the reins, just a bit, to slow his steps. His canter breaks into a trot.

A trot, a piaffe, a volte, a walk. The girls in feathered pink and purple leotards balancing on one hand on the horse’s back while the clowns juggle bowling pins and children marvel at the colors and whimsy.

The boots, the helmet, the chaps zipped tight on my now almost immovable legs. The excitement, the beauty, the harmony, the challenge, the strength, the ride.

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