February 22, 2019

Let’s play horsie!

It was a strange series of events that led me to being on a horse, too early in the morning, while I was on vacation in Hawaii.

I had only been horseback riding once
before, during the one summer I worked at a sleep-away camp. The experience had not left a positive memory, as nearly all my campers hated it, it was hot, and my horse, lovingly named Elmo, had nearly run me into a tree.

So how did I end up in this precarious position? Well, my boyfriend and I were in Hawaii and, in the spirit of “trying one another’s likes,” we had taken turns choosing activities that sounded like fun. I chose para-sailing, he chose jet skiing; I chose zip lining, and he chose horse back riding. I definitely was not pleased with the idea of actually spending money to sit atop a very large animal that either would, or would not, traumatize me. But I knew that I would just have to grin and bear it.

After all, that is how relationships work, right?

Give and take, compromise, and try new things; I had previously tried and liked camping, so who knows, maybe I needed a second attempt at horseback riding to really like it.

Now, I’ve never been an animal person. I’m convinced that whatever part of an animal-liking gene I should have been born with was divided between my older brother and younger sister. Each of them must have gotten an extra helping, leaving me with a barely palpable amount of animal tolerance. I’m the type who will wave at a dog — unlike my siblings, who will throw themselves on the floor in a puddle of baby-like cooing.

The minute we got near the horses, I vividly remembered just how much of a non-animal person I truly was. But I straddled the horse and proceeded to hold on for dear life. So there I was, in the middle of a white-knuckled-grip ride down a too steep, rain soaked trail, and not happy in the least. My boyfriend, on the other hand was grinning from ear to ear, bringing his horse to “say hello” to mine.

I decided to try to make the best of it. As we meandered down the trail, I started looking around and enjoying the fabulous scenery. The lush green hills dropping off to a sparkling sunlit ocean sent my photography senses tingling; only trouble was, I was afraid to let go and get my camera out of its very secure case. So I decided to just enjoy the scenery, as we slowly walked by.

Sounds good, right? The trouble was that my horse, Buster, had a slight eating disorder, and viewed the entire trail as a meandering all-you-can-eat salad bar. Every few steps Buster would stop, graze, I would pull up on the reigns (as my boyfriend kept telling me to do), give a little kick (as the guides told me to do) and urge the horse forward with some positive reinforcement.

“Come on horsey, you can eat lunch later!” When that didn’t work I tried, “Come on Buster,” pulling up on the reigns and giving a nudge, “Come on!”

Nothing worked. My horse was backing up the single-file line of riders, and I was getting frustrated.

Why did this have to happen to me? The first time I went horseback riding, my horse had a challenged sense of direction, and now I had the binge-eating horse?

My boyfriend’s horse was an egotistical stallion; he would trot up ahead of the group and then turn around and come close to me to say hello. Which of course made my horse tense up, and the two would start to bicker with one another.

“Our horses don’t like each other,” I told my boyfriend.

“They are just being friendly,” he insisted, coming a bit too close to my horse for comfort.

Friendly, he said. Sure, because friendly means trying to bite each other in the face. If that is friendly according to him, maybe I should start being concerned …

By the 50th time that I had to nudge my horse to keep moving, I began to wonder if Buster was an emotional eater. Was my white-knuckled grip making my horse nervous? Or was Buster reading me as a ‘sucker’ and taking advantage of my niceness. Hmmm …

After the two hours passed and we finally returned to the stables, I got off the horse and did a John Wayne-esque walk: knees burning, sweat dripping, hobbling back to our car. My boyfriend was nearly flying with excitement, and it was then that I realized it was all worth it.

Would I ride again? Not in the near future. But it was definitely something I could hazard doing again, just to see that look of pure joy on my boyfriend’s face. After all, I know he would do the same for me.

Caroline Cobrin is a freelance writer living in Van Nuys. She can be reached at carolinecolumns@hotmail.com.