I’m not a big fan of horses. While from afar, I find them powerful and beautiful animals, that’s just about where I want them – afar. They’re just a little too snorty and unpredictable for my taste.
Hidden deeply in a box in the back of someone’s closet, there is photographic documentation of a rather unfortunate decision made by my father regarding a vacation activity. My dad loved vacations, and he would do just about anything to create more fun times for Mom and their four children when it came to vacation fun. However, one year when we were vacationing in our favorite spot – Estes Park, Colorado – he decided it would be great fun to sign up the family for an early morning horseback trail ride. I don’t know how he talked Mom into this idea. Despite the fact that she grew up on a farm, Mom was not a farm girl. She thought, for example, that chickens were the stupidest animals on earth. If ever any of her children appeared to be lacking enthusiasm or energy, we were put in our place with her stern words: you look like a chicken with coccidiosis. For years I thought she invented that term. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that chickens were, in fact, susceptible to an intestinal disease called coccidiosis with symptoms that included listlessness.
Anyhoo, Dad arranged this morning breakfast ride, which turned out to be a dismal failure. While Mom thought chickens were stupid, she thought horses were terrifying. And guess what? So did her children. Well, that’s not exactly true. For whatever reason, Bec is the member of our family who is (as Mary Poppins might say) practically fearless in every way. She likes horses and enjoys riding them. Go figure. But the rest of us were miserable, as the aforementioned photo documented. I was maybe 10 years old, which would have made Bec 15, Jen 6, and Dave 4. As you could predict, we did not get the perkiest horses in the stable. In fact, I believe they might have been sent off to the glue factory shortly after our ride. But that was fine with us. If the horse hadn’t moved an inch, we all (except Bec) would have been very happy. The other people who were on our trail ride, however, were eagerly anticipating breakfast. So the cowboy with the unfortunate job of handling the Gloors handed Mom a switch from a tree. “Here you go, Ma’am,” he said cheerfully. “If the horse doesn’t want to walk, give him a wack on his haunches and he will start to move.”
Needless to say, there was no wacking on the haunches of any of our horses. However, we somehow made it to the end of the trail and to breakfast. Dave, being so young, rode with Dad, sitting in front of him. He cried the entire way. Not sniffled, mind you – cried, with tears rolling down his cheek. It wasn’t until we arrived at breakfast that Dad figured out that Dave was riding on the saddle horn the entire way, thereby enduring a painful journey. I feel no need to explain.
I also feel no need to explain why Dave, Jen, and Mom rode back to the stable in a wagon following breakfast.
Having said all of the above, I will tell you that there is a month-and-a-half out of the year when I love horses, and that is during the Triple Crown races. Every first Saturday of May, I get a text from my brother asking for my Kentucky Derby prediction. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that my brother was not totally scarred for life by his disturbing horseback-riding experience, and actually likes horse racing. Unlike me, he does not select his horse by whether or not it’s pretty or the colors worn by the jockey are striking. He actually studies the horses, the stables, the trainers, the jockeys. The one exception to what I just said is 2012, the year that I’ll Have Another raced. He picked the horse 100 percent because of his name. Too bad he didn’t bet the ranch, however, because I’ll Have Another went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He might have gone on to win Belmont Stakes, but he had an ouchie and couldn’t race. He, in fact, never raced again.
When Bill and I were first married, he was the proud owner of a gorgeous palomino horse named Champion Chip, called simply Chip. Even I had to admit to his sheer beauty. He was some 16 hands high, and spirited as all get-out. Bill had to break him, and did such a good job that he was able to ride Chip in parades along with other horses as part of a horseback riding group to which he belonged. To give you an idea of how large 16 hands is, the magnificent 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat – known for his size and power – was 16-and-1/2 hands high when he won those races.
While they didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, Bill and Chip looked amazing with the Sangre di Cristo mountains in the background…..
Suffice it to say that I never – not even once – got on Chip’s back. I’m pretty sure I never even touched him. One horseback ride was enough. It’s only a matter of time before one gets stomped by a horse…..