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We Are Flying Solo

February 13, 2010

Blast From The Past

Today is a nasty, snow-ridden, mucky day so in order to entertain myself in lieu of going outside and getting cold, I start instead shuffling through the stack of old photographs I brought home at Christmas.

Growing up, I never had my own horse. The closest I got was the Welsh Mountain Pony X we leased for a while in California. So I eagerly pounced on any opportunity to ride anything remotely horselike and counted it as a good day. Ah, 80's fashion was so unkind to all of us...

I am in the back, my little brother sits up front. Two childhood friends smile at the camera. I am turned away, peering around to see, fixated on the wonder of this magical, living, breathing, powerful, beautiful animal that carries us. She was a little Asian elephant at the Cincinnati Zoo -- with four legs and a tail, close enough to a horse to count as riding!

If, perchance I found myself near ACTUAL horses, I was fixated. Occasionally I would find myself reduced to paroxysms of ecstasy, like over the Christmas holidays of 1991. I was 12 and we vacationed at Tanque Verde Ranch, a luxurious place nestled in the mountains near Tuscon, AZ. You got to hang out with other kids away from your parents all day -- and you got to ride every day. Twice. Cantering on sandy trails winding through the washes and peaks of the beautiful Saguaro National Monument. It was heaven.

I wish I could remember this little bay gelding's name that I am riding (sans helmet, gasp!). He had a respiratory problem when he loped, so I could only ride him in their arena. When we went out on our rides, I had to switch to a big freckled grey.

I remember a clear desert afternoon as we rode through a wash, my little brother, myself, and our chaperone who led, we encountered a wide patch of quicksand. The leader's horse stumbled in and bounded through. Next, my little brother, 9 at the time, clung tightly as his smaller horse leapfrogged across. He dissolved into tears as the saddle horn pummeled his crotch repeatedly. In true big sister fashion, I giggled at his plight.

As I kicked the grey forward to cross the sand, he took two steps and plummeted to his belly in the muck. The gelding froze, unwilling to thrash with me on his back, but uncertain of his ability to escape. I immediately hopped off. Since I was a tiny beanpole of a kid, I stood easily on the surface of the quicksand that had swallowed my horse. I stepped forward and clucked gently and calmly to my grey friend, calling, "C'mon, buddy, you can do it." In two leaps, he popped right out and shook himself up. I scaled back on with a grin.

I believe our guide's eyes nearly popped out of her face at my calm problem solving and for the rest of the day, she told our story around the ranch. My mother heard the story third hand before we rejoined her for dinner and instantly realized, "Yep, that's my daughter." I always was good in a crisis, LOL.


  1. I was also the kid thrilled to ride the elephant, because I was RIDING something!! Good to know I wasn't the only one!

  2. Hurrah for us children who got excited about riding any random quadrupeds!!!!

  3. I TOTALLY pretended that I was riding a HUGE horse when I went on an elephant ride... hahahah I love that I wasn't the only one who was trying to make it into a horse of some sort.

  4. ROFL -- can you imagine trying to give canter aids to an elephant??