When I was around the age of 10, I got an opportunity to ride on a horse for the first time in my life. We lived in a residential neighborhood but the covenants and/or the city allowed people to keep a horse (or two) on their property. My family didn’t have the means to own a horse, plus I wouldn’t have had a clue how to care for one even if they did; however, one of our neighbors did. The name of his horse was ‘Charlie Brown’. I couldn’t tell you much more about it other than it was quite gentle in nature and didn’t seem to easily startle, even when standing in close proximity to a number of rambunctious children. I was fascinated with Charlie Brown. I’d had plenty of exposure to cats and dogs and squirrels, but never a farm animal. I yearned to ride on that noble steed and pleaded with our neighbor on several different occasions for a chance. When the day finally arrived that he gave his consent, I was practically beside myself!
Before I continue, in case you don’t know much about my history, I probably should fill you in a bit on what I had a tendency to do when I either got excited or nervous. To begin with, I would laugh. I would laugh or giggle until I was practically tied up in knots. That in itself wasn’t such a big deal, it’s what followed. What followed every single time I found myself in that ‘state’ was an eventual loss of bladder control. I was like one of those dogs that pees on the floor every time it gets a little excited, except rather than peeing on the floor, I’d pee my pants. Unfortunately, because of this ‘tendency’, I managed to ‘soil’ quite a few surfaces. I was like an animal marking its territory. Nothing was off limits. If I was perched atop something and became nervous or excited and the laughter started up, whatever I was perched on top of was bound to get wet. I soiled chairs and couches and mattresses and stairs. And when I finally got a chance to ride atop ol’ Charlie Brown, you can envision what happened!
Yes, I soiled him, too. Giddy with excitement, I began to laugh. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes before the floodgates opened up. And once the urine started to flow, it didn’t stop until my bladder was completely empty. When I think back, I doubt that Charlie was terribly pleased. I can visualize him saying to himself, “I finally give this obnoxious kid a ride and this is how she shows her gratitude? By humiliating me?!” I’m not sure who was embarrassed more after climbing down off Charlie Brown, him or me. I cannot say what he did after he and I went our separate ways, but I can tell you that I went home in a hurry and changed my clothes. “Why?” I hear you asking yourself, “Why is this woman sharing this nutty story and what is its relevance?” Great question! The relevance of this story is that I think ol’ Charlie Brown told his horse friends about what happened and they, in turn, told their horse friends (and on and on), and at some point, one of those horses decided to seek revenge.
I mean, when you upset people (or animals), word gets around! And it took them a while, just over a quarter of a century, to work out a deviant plan to get back at me, but get back at me they did! Have you heard of the saying, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”? This dish was so cold, it was nearly freezer-burnt! The horse (that eventually served up the slice) must have plotted for years to ensure I paid dearly for my misdeed because after what it put me through, I swore off riding horses for the rest of my days! What could it have possibly done that made me ‘hang up my saddle’? Geez. What didn’t it do? To help you better understand the series of events that took place, I should provide a few more details about that memorable day. To begin with, my husband and I decided to take a vacation (with our children) in Colorado Springs. In addition to spending time at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo as well as riding the ‘world’s highest cog railway’, we also dedicated an afternoon to horseback riding.
All went relatively well until horses got involved. I cannot remember the exact day but it was definitely on a weekend. Because we’re military and the Air Force Academy had the best rates on horse rentals in the area, we chose to go there. Unfortunately, our desire to go on a ‘guided trail ride’ didn’t happen because there were no guides available. The individual working at the stables told us that we could still rent the horses, but we would have to go out on our own. My husband and I talked it over and decided to go for it. I mean, how hard could it be? Haha…famous last words! From the get-go, it was a painful experience. None of the horses were interested in taking a leisurely walk up or down a trail. The only thing they seemed keen on was eating. Once all five of us (my husband, myself, and our three kids) were sitting atop our horses and ready to hit the trail, the horses refused to budge. All they wanted to do was nibble on the grass and enjoy the beautiful day.
The guy working the stables told us that we had to be more assertive and ‘take control’. After a great deal of effort, we finally managed to ‘convince’ the horses that we meant business and they eventually started to take us up a long, meandering trail. We rode the horses along the trail and eventually reached a clearing. It was absolutely beautiful. I called out to my husband that we needed to stop because I wanted to take some photos. I had my fancy camera in my backpack (which I was wearing) and needed to remove the backpack in order to access it. With great care, I attempted to remove it (while atop the horse). After I had removed the straps from my shoulders, as I was swinging the backpack around to the front (using both my hands), I’m not sure what exactly happened, but the horse got spooked and in the process, reared up and sent me flying. I flew off the horse and landed on the ground, my head taking much of the impact.
Did it rattle me? Heck, yes! I bawled like a baby; I was scared and hurt. I did not want to get back up on that horse. But I didn’t want that horse to get the best of me, so once my courage returned, I climbed back on. Our group continued along the trail, every now and then stopping and taking an occasional break. I remember that during one of the breaks, shortly after my youngest son had climbed off his horse (for one reason or another), the horse ended up stepping on his foot, and then he started with the waterworks. I believe he was around 10 years old at the time. Neither he nor I seemed to have much luck with our horses. Once he stopped crying, and after my husband and I checked him over to determine whether he needed medical treatment (he didn’t), he climbed back onto his horse and our non-guided trail ride continued. For the next 20-30 minutes, everything seemed to go smoothly. However, as we neared the end of the trail and approached the stables, there was a significant turn of events.
We didn’t know where the heck we were going but those horses knew. They had one goal in mind and that was returning to the stables and ‘taking a load off’. I was pretty much on ‘auto pilot’ and letting my horse lead the way and it was clear it had ‘home’ on the brain. My youngest son’s horse seemed to be of the same mindset. When we rounded the last bend, my son’s horse (to my immediate left) led him under a tree with a low hanging branch. The horse cleared the branch but my son did not. When the branch and my son came into contact, the branch broke and made a loud ‘crack’ as it snapped in half. The noise not only startled his horse, it startled mine as well. They both started galloping like they were competing in the Kentucky Derby and as much as I tried to hang on, because of my weakened state from falling earlier, I lost my grip on the reins and went flying off my horse (again). This fall went much differently than the first one. This time, I ended up losing consciousness and not regaining it until I woke up in the hospital. When I did wake up, my husband recounted what happened.
Apparently, I suffered a pretty nasty concussion when my head and the ground made contact the second time. Because I was knocked out cold (and unresponsive), an ambulance was called and I was transported to the nearest hospital for tests and observation. Here’s the thing, if you know much about the human body, you’ll know that when someone loses consciousness, they lose control of their muscles. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, relaxes. As it happens, despite my husband being aware of this (fully aware) and having made a trip back to the hotel (while I was in the hospital) in order to gather some essentials for me, he forgot two very critical items. What might those items be, you ask? Jeans and underwear. And why would I need jeans and underwear, you ask? Because after falling off the horse and cracking my noggin’ on the ground, I lost consciousness and yep, wet my pants. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time (but everyone else did). Imagine my horror when I was cleared by the doctor to leave (that evening), and all I had to wear were my soiled garments. It had to be in the top five of my most humiliating experiences.
In order to make the trip from the hospital to the hotel, I got to replace a nice, clean, dry medical gown with soggy underwear and jeans that were covered in dirt, and then sit on a towel so as not to soil the front, passenger seat in our mini-van. If that wasn’t bad enough, when we arrived at the hotel we had reserved for the evening, I had to enter through the main entrance, and walk through the brightly lit lobby and past the reception desk staff and down a hallway and past several guests in order to reach my/our room. It sucked. What is my take on this experience? If I was a betting woman, I’d say there were a few horses involved in my ‘fall from grace’, beginning with Charlie Brown. You’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise. Somehow, some way, that horse must have shared that story from long ago and when those horses at the Academy eventually got wind of it and heard I’d be ‘dropping by’, my horse took it upon himself to serve up a nice freezer-burnt slice of revenge. What can I say? It did seem rather harsh but I guess I had it coming.