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A Ride on the Beach
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A Ride on the Beach

Prompted by a horse-loving friend, Mia decided to take riding lessons. She found a beautiful horse ranch in the hills, and was assigned an older horse named Colusi.

Mia rode Colusi for 6 months of lessons, one per week. When the old quarter horse began stumbling as she rode him, Mia became fearful of possibly flying over Colusi’s head and breaking her neck. So she stopped taking the lessons. Her growing affection for the horse, however, wasn’t dampened by stopping formal training. She maintained her schedule of weekly visits and developed a close relationship with Colusi. They’d go “grazing” together -- Mia would walk Colusi to grassy areas at the ranch and talk to him like an old friend. She would spill her guts about everything from old boyfriends to financial issues. Colusi seemed to understand, turning his head to look her sagely in the eye when she said something astute, and once stepping on her toe when she uttered something idiotic. Good thing she wore steel-toed muck boots to protect her feet from 1,200 pounds of hunky horseflesh.

Mia bolstered her confidence around the horse by one day deciding to get on Colusi bareback. What a magical experience! She guided the horse with just her knees as they slowly walked to patches of verdant grass. Feeling the warmth of the horse’s body under hers seemed to strengthen the connection between them.

One sunny weekend Mia and a friend decided to go for a horseback ride on the beach. Although Colusi wouldn’t be her mount that day, Mia believed she’d gained so much expertise from her time spent with him, that she felt confident she could ride any horse. So to the beach they went.

They arrived at a parking lot where three large horse trailers and trucks were parked. Milling about in the lot were the horse handlers and their charges, about 10 horses in all. Pungent piles of horse patties decorated the lot, steaming in the sun. One of the handlers asked the group of riders if anyone had ridden horses before. Mia’s hand instantly shot up, impelled by her resolute assurance of her riding capabilities.

A handler beckoned Mia over to a handsome, dazzling white young Arabian gelding named Chase. Mia attempted to raise herself onto Chase’s saddle by inserting her foot into one stirrup. As she did so, the horse decided to move away from Mia. She had a firm grasp on the reins, but found herself hopping in a circle on one foot trying to catch the horse , who didn’t demonstrate any interest whatsoever in accommodating her. Mia realized much later, she might’ve taken Chase’s behavior as something of a “red flag.”

Eventually, Mia managed to seat herself on Chase, who was still moving friskily, prancing importantly around the lot, his head and tail majestically held aloft. Feeling a bit unnerved, Mia tried to assert control over the horse by directing him to stand still. Chase remained oblivious to Mia’s attempts at domination, and continued to dance around, showing off by strutting his stuff.

Finally, the ten riders were led by a guide single file to the beach. The trail was cut into mounds of weedy sand dunes. The sun beat down on the riders’ shoulders like a soothingly warm electric blanket. Mia relaxed and regained some of her confidence, and was able to keep Chase closely following the twitching horsetail directly in front of his nose. The group stopped at the vast expanse of a bright blue ocean that blended seamlessly with the azure sky. In the peaceful silence a restful sound was created by many little lapping waves making a “whooshing” sound.

The riders’ reverie was broken by the guide, who turned back in her saddle and asked, “Who wants to run?” Nine enthusiastic voices expressed the affirmative, and off they went. Mia was a bit startled to see that Chase immediately and strenuously fulfilled his namesake and -- without a wit of prompting from Mia -- literally high-tailed it after the group. He didn’t just run, he flew to the front of the herd, intent on not letting any horses’ nose exist beyond his.

Meanwhile, Mia had lost all sense of authority over Chase. In fact, to him she was merely a trifling hindrance to his racing abilities. She had the reins, but she was flopping around on Chase’s back like a sack of clattering sticks, her teeth and bones clacking together and her rear-end repeatedly slamming with colossal force onto the unyielding saddle.

Mia’s feet flew out of the stirrups and the only thing preventing her from bouncing off onto the wet sand and being trampled by 40 pounding hooves was her death-grip on Chase’s reins and mane. Nothing she yelled convinced the horse to slow down -- not “Whoa!” or “Stop!” or even “Help!” Mia began fearing for her life as, out of the corner of her eye, she witnessed her friend laughing uproariously, thoroughly enjoying Mia’s Cirque du Soleil flailings.

Finally, the guide pulled up and stopped. The other horses, including Chase, halted as well, in a hot, sweaty, panting lump -- a description precisely befitting Mia. The other riders were displaying mighty exuberance at their thrilling and breathtaking experience. It should be noted, though, that the other riders were not on the backs of devil horses.

The guide condescendingly addressed Mia: “Would you like to switch horses with me? Mine is not quite as frisky as Chase.” Mia forcefully replied, “Yes, please!” and debarked from Chase’s back. She had no trouble hoisting herself onto the new horse, who steadfastly comported himself like a patient gentleman.

“OK, shall we run back?” the guide addressed the group. “Yes!” came the lively reply. One voice was missing, however -- Mia’s. While she did feel marginally more confident on her new horse, her pride -- located mostly in her behind -- was seriously wounded.

Off they went in a thudding rumble, splashing through the water. Inexplicably, Mia’s horse decided to duplicate Chase’s antics and ran wildly to the front of the herd, transporting Mia on an alarming replication of her ride on Chase. Her horse -- bigger than Chase -- took it into his large head to beat Chase in this sandy race, and seemed to find high enjoyment at forcefully flinging Mia all over his back. She bounced, she flounced and generally jounced all over the horse’s back, again without the benefit of stirrups. A frantic noise emitted from Mia, which fellow riders would later recall as sounding like, “AAAAEEEEEEKKKK!” screamed at a fever pitch. This time, Mia’s saving grace was the saddle’s pommel, which by the end of the ride, had her fingers firmly imprinted into its surface.

Horses and riders slowed to a walk, and ultimately sauntered slowly back over the trail to the parking lot. The handlers waiting there were curious to hear about the ride. “So how was it?” one loudly asked the group. From the back of the herd came a vehement high-pitched shriek: “These horses are CRAZY!”

As Mia limped away, she vowed to do one of two things: She would either never ride horses again or she would take more lessons, which she obviously needed. This decision would be given more thought after first indulging her back side a nice, long, much-deserved break.

 

Photo: "Colusi"

 

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