First, let me say, I haven’t been on back of a horse in almost 40 years.
I’m wrapping up “The Lawman” and I’ve a good old fashioned, old west posse pursuit of a killer who has fled into the mountains on horseback.
Now I’ve ridden horses as part of my youth. Being raised a cowboy, and trailing cattle up to the summer pastures was something that happened every year. Add a couple of rodeos in there, routine ranch work, and it’s safe to say I spent more than a little time in the saddle.
And while I still remember how to handle a horse (it is after all, a part of my DNA), physically that was a whole different issue.
I got hold of a friend in my church, told him that I was doing a little research for my book (like remembering some of the little things about riding horses), and asked if he minded. He said, come on out, we’d go riding. So I went over on a nice spring day, and he had a couple of horses in the corral waiting.
Now anytime you go riding with a friend, and they choose the horse for you, you’ll get one of two kinds of horse. Either they’ll stick you on the meanest, orneriest thing on 4 legs (and its name will almost always be Buttercup), or on a horse that you have to check once in a while to make sure it still had a pulse
I got a mustang named Mac that as he explained “My grandkids ride”. I remembered a couple of his grandkids also rode rodeo (couple of bronco riders, ropers, and barrel riders), so that could mean just about anything when it came to this horse. After saddling up, I soon discovered the horse must be ridden around by the younger kids. IT was a nice, steady animal, and to carry around this old man, it had to be.
I soon found out I wasn’t as young as I used to be.
When I pulled up into the saddle, I swung my right leg up and over like I’d done hundreds of time years before. In years past, my leg would clearly perfectly, come down perfectly into the stirrup on the other side.
This time, I put my left foot in the stirrup, pulled up, swung the leg up, and kicked the horse right in the rump. “Oh, boy,” I thought. Here we go. I had visions of the horse, being startled, bolting with me half on.
But as I mentioned, it was good horse. It turned its head, looked at me, and if a horse could have talked, it would certainly have asked, “Excuse me. What do you think you’re doing?”
I tried again, this time straining that 60 year old leg up and over. On the second try I managed to get into the saddle, though my foot didn’t make it into the stirrup like before. I had to search a little for it, but soon I found it.
We were ready to ride. The old habits came back quickly, and I realized that riding was second nature. In a lot of ways, it really was like riding a bike, only easier. How to turn the horse, stop, get it to go, how to sit in the saddle when going up or down a hill, every bit of that was still in me and I found myself doing it without even thinking.
It was the body that had the most problems. After about thirty minutes, I began to realize that my hips and legs were hurting me. Riding a horse is just like any other sport. You have to stay in shape for it. If you’re a runner, and you took years off, just going out and running the Boston Marathon isn’t going to happen. If you’re a boxer, expect to get a few gloves laid on you.
So it was with me. While I consider myself flexible (after all, I still do yoga and etc.), riding a horse involves a whole different set of muscles and flexible standards. When I got off an hour later, my hips were stiff and I had to walk it out a little. That evening, it was Alieve before bedtime.
It was an eye opening experience on how something that’s so simple to do when young, can change a little when you’re older.
So the question is, will a few aches and pains keep me off a horse?
The answer, if being bucked into a cactus pile didn’t, this won’t. And oh, that whole ‘nother story.