Most of my favorite experiences in life have been unplanned adventures. There’s nothing I appreciate more than a good surprise, and they make great fodder for writing, too. Here’s one of my favorite unplanned adventures that I will never forget.
When I was a teenager in Oklahoma, I had a horse, and so did many of my friends. I’d worked hard and saved all my money for years and carefully planned on how I would buy and board my horse in a nearby pasture, and as a teenager, I finally accomplished my dream to have a horse. My mother always thought riding was a reckless activity, and she told me that if I hurt myself, I couldn’t complain to her.
One day I was a guest at another girl’s horse farm, and we decided to go on a trail ride. I was given a big white gelding to ride, and we set off, with me in third place behind my two friends. Near the beginning of the trail, our horses needed to jump a log that lay across the path. It wasn’t more than a foot thick, so no problem. But after my horse leapt over it, he started acting wild, wanting to get off the trail, and as I held him back, he reared. “Hey,” I yelped at the owner, “What’s wrong with this horse?”
When she glanced back, she said in a casual tone, “Oh. I forgot. That’s the beginning of the jump course, and he’s trained to finish every time he starts. So please, just let him go and ride him around the course.”
Uh. Two problems with that. 1) I’d never ridden a jumper, and 2) I was riding in a western saddle, which is definitely not designed for leaning forward against the horse’s neck, which is needed on jumps, especially high ones. But I figured, what the heck, this horse clearly knows what to do.
And he definitely did. He cantered into an arena that was close by, and we soared over the first few relatively small jumps. I was only hanging on; the horse was the expert. Then we approached the final pole jump, which was about five feet tall, my own height. Yikes. I will always remember thinking that it would be a miracle if I ended up in the saddle on the other side. The horse rose up beneath me, launching himself in a nearly vertical position, and I did my best to lean forward over the saddle horn. Then he came down on the other side in just as vertical a position, but forelegs first, of course, and I tried to sit back.
When we first touched down, I whacked my little finger on the saddle horn, and I’m pretty sure I broke it. But I remained in my saddle, and the pain was nothing compared to the thrill of riding that horse. After the ride, the owner showed me a whole gallery of photos of that horse in action; he was a champion jumper. I splinted my little finger at home and said nothing to my mom. But I smiled for days.
Now, when the weather is damp, my little finger is often very stiff, but that reminds me of the day I accidentally rode a champion jumping horse.