Horses were always a big part of my life. I gave my last three away just months ago, finding that as a single (somewhat depressed) person, keeping horses was more than I can do right now. But, still, they're in my blood. I know a lot about them and, as you can see, some of it is learning by experience!!
A little while ago Four Miles North of Nowhere made a little mention of ordering up a harmonica. It set me thinking about the one and only time I decided to learn to play. I am musically-challenged in all areas, but thought I might could manage a harmonica. We ran a boarding stable to defray the expense of our horse hobby, and we had quite a little cadre of trail riders. We’d meet at 5 a.m. on Spring and Summer Saturday mornings and ride the trails a couple of hours, adjourning for a late Waffle House breakfast. Those were the days!!
Anyway, I thought I’d just add a little Western atmosphere to our rides by playing “Happy Trails” and other cowboy tunes as we ambled along the trails. I secretly practiced and practiced till I had a repertoire of about three appropriate tunes, smug in my thoughts at how impressed my fellow equestrians would be at my talent.
On the day of the ride, we all saddled up and were twenty minutes or so into our ride, traveling at a leisurely pace. At the time I was riding my Appaloosa gelding, “Domino,” who was not known for a level head. I pulled out my harmonica, thinking only of my surprise to my group and concentrating on getting my blowing just right. You can imagine how I felt when at the first “toot” of the harmonica, Ol’ Domino must have thought the sky was falling because he bolted like a bat out of you-know-where. Of course, the other horses did about the same thing…it was a sheer wonder and a testament to our good horsemanship that no one was unseated! But I felt like a complete idiot. I have been around horses all my life, and I know that the unexpected is frightening to a horse. I had not taken the time to break them in to the strange sound of the harmonica.
We were shaken up badly that day, and I stuffed my musical instrument back into my pocket. I was eventually able to play on the trail, but only after I had properly introduced the horses to the sound by playing it for them in the barn…as I should have in the first place!
And thinking of this near miss reminded me of a horse story from my elementary days. It is an experience that should have taught me enough to avoid the harmonica situation to begin with.
One of our favorite television programs back then was “Bonanza.” Remember that famous western family of men? I can still remember each horse in the cast! I was fascinated in one episode where Little Joe used his beautiful paint to pull a log out of the way. “Why, I bet Ginger could do that!” I thought.
The next day I saddled Ginger up, taking a long rope with me. I rode down to the end of our pasture near our pond, where I knew a fallen log was lying. I hitched one end of the rope to the saddle horn and the other to the log. I pulled on Ginger’s bridle, urging her to move forward. As she did, sure enough, the log came too, and Ginger, being no fool, knew that it was just not right that a log could move. She did what any self-respecting survivalist herd animal would do: She lit out like a streak of lightning, leaving me standing there watching her and the log race back and forth in zig-zags across the pasture. Poor Ginger! The faster she ran, the faster that killer log came at her. Again, it is a wonder that either the horse was not hurt or I was not run down. She finally stopped, trembling, giving up and thinking (I’m sure) that the log would pounce on her at any moment.
I was, naturally, terrified. I don’t think I even told my parents what had happened.
Anyway, thank you, KATH for spurring these memories of my good times and my foolishness with my horses. It’s kinda a wonder I ever lived to grow up!
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