I used to ride an incredibly intelligent beast whose philosophy in life is: Why run when you can walk? Why walk when you can not walk? One Friday afternoon, after a long week at work, Masochist Mike (the riding instructor) decided that it would be good idea for us to trot without stirrups. I knew instinctively, like an ant knows not to crawl down the bath drain, that I wasn’t going to stay elegantly perched on the back of the horse. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I was born with no sense of balance at all – I’m the only person I know who can quite easily, and quite readily does, trip over invisible objects.
Anyway, back to the horse. So there I was being instructed to remove my feet from the stirrups and trot. I had a feeling of impending doom. And maybe I’m entirely to blame for putting my imminent close-encounter with the sandy paddock out in the Universe. Maybe the Universe did no wrong and just answered the call I sent out to fall flat on my bum. As the usually laziest horse in the history of the world gained speed and trotted on in what can only be described as anticipatory glee, I began to lose my balance.
I did the only thing a quick-thinking, horse whispering tamer-of-beasts in my predicament would do: I decided on the controlled-fall approach. Don’t be fooled: this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires much manoeuvring of the body into positions that contortionists can only wish to emulate. I slid slowly from the saddle and twisted around so as to land on the soft cushiony pad of my rump. My reasoning was that it is far easier to break your arm than it is to break your bum. So there I was, inches from the end of my life (a little melodramatic, I concede but then I’m allowed a little melodrama when I barely escaped death) when I hear Mad Mike shouting: ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing disembarking from moving horse?’
And as I pondered the profundity of his question, I hit the ground with an oomf. Fortunately, my well-thought-out plan turned out to be just that and the effects and scarring were minimal. Nothing bites deeper than the disappointment of a bruise that doesn’t appear when all you need is a little evidence to show and tell the world about your near-death experience.
I lay on the sand looking up in to the eyes of an
extremely amused and, I’m not going to lie,
self-satisfied horse. Andy is not mean. There is
not a malicious bone in his gorgeous horsey body.
But he is smart. And he does have a wicked sense
of humour. I swear I heard him chuckling from the
bottom of his belly, which was now surprisingly close
to my face.
Again I was faced with a monumental decision. Well two decisions really: How was I going to react to this situation, and what was I going to do about it? I was running out of time to show those watching that I was not in fact dead so I decided to go against everything I believe in and against all my morals and values. I decided not to cry. And with that decision I stood up and walked it off. Like the cowboys did in the days of yore.
I grabbed my chuckling 800kg horse by the reigns and frog-marched him to the mounting block. I could have stared adversity in the face and tried mounting him from ground zero but all that stuff I said earlier about contorting myself was a blatant bald-faced lie. My legs just don’t bend that way. So off we tramped to the mounting block in order for me to regain a little of the dignity that now lay smeared in the horse manure.
I parallel parked Andy alongside the mounting block and prepared to climb up and back onto the throne from which I’d so recently been removed. I stood, hoisted up my right leg ready to show the world how brave I was, when Andy decided that he’d finished with his riding lesson for the day and began to lope exhaustedly back to his stable. I just about heard him say: ‘Thanks, I’m a little tired now. I think I’ll go for a lie down. Bye, Lady.’
I dismounted the mounting block to retrieve my gentle giant who was quickening his pace the closer he got to freedom. I grabbed the reigns and took the horse by the mane (please appreciate the subtle use of metaphor) and parallel parked him once more against the mounting block. I was again in mid leg throw when Andy decided, with much certainty, that he was finished riding for the day and off he went to have a nap.
I once again dismounted the mounting block in a way it really never should be, and went trotting (without stirrups I might add) after Andy. We parallel parked for the third time and I prepared once again to grasp at the remaining tatters of my dignity and remount the most obedient horse in the yard. Fortunately a bystander, now bored with my lack of command and the general repetitiveness of me failing to mount my ruddy steed, decided to help out by reigning in my mule.
Once again I threw my leg energetically towards the heavens where the Universe now lay rolling on the floor laughing and Andy loped off. To cut a really long story about climbing on the back of a horse short, it took three people to hold down my horse while I pathetically and without any dignity clambered up on his back. And off we went in search of more humiliation.
In the April issue of Essentials magazine (http://bit.ly/dVqXd1), Taryn, our travel ed, visits Ant’s Hill in the Waterburg and enjoys an unforgettable horse-riding safari. Fortunately she manages to stay on top of her horse and shares her amazing experiences with us.
She also tells us about a couple of other weekend-away destinations if you’re looking to go somewhere lovely for Easter, including a country manor in the North West, a spa in Chinsta and a gorgeous wine farm in the Cape.