A friend loveth at all times. . . .
— Proverbs 17:17a
We had a little Friday morning riding club at the barn where we kept our first horse, Zippa Dee Dude. A bunch of us women decided to sneak away from our busy schedules and hang out with our horses, just for fun.
Women so often fall into self-neglect and burnout because they devote themselves to taking care of everything and everybody BUT themselves. So we tried to reverse that trend. We called it “Hags On Nags.”
We had a lot of fun, kidding around and solving the problems of the world as we rode. We bragged about our families. We rejoiced when members excelled at horse shows. When a long-awaited foal died, we all hugged the devastated owner, and cried.
I was the greenhorn, the abject novice. They were kind and tolerant, as horse owners tend to be. I was all thumbs trying to bridle Zippy; they coached me. I didn’t know a flying lead change from an airplane loop-de-loop; they schooled me. If I’d drop a rein, they’d pick it up for me. Gradually, with their support, I cowgirled up.
Week after week, we went around and around in the indoor arena, perfecting our commands, and setting up some basic obstacle courses to follow. We exchanged hoof care tips and fly masks, phone numbers of farriers and opinions on nutrition.
We would talk and laugh and share our lives, those Friday mornings in the sunlit barn on our gleaming quarter horses. Summer rolled into fall – primeau riding time.
So one day, we decided to step out of our comfort zone . . . and do a trail ride.
Word spread about our adventure. On the day of the ride, there must have been 20 women there with horses of all kinds. I had invited a new friend, Jeannie, and she arranged to borrow someone’s horse for the ride. Bugsy was “fresh” – hadn’t been ridden for a while — but she was a veteran horsewoman and didn’t expect much trouble.
We started off. I kept near the back, letting more experienced riders take the lead. Jeannie rode just ahead of me. It was going great; I felt like whistling “Happy Trails to You,” but was busy concentrating on my riding.
We came to a steep hill. You are not supposed to gallop on a trail ride for safety reasons. But a couple of horses in the front got so excited, they bolted up the hill. The ones in the middle followed suit, and those of us in the back tried our best to rein in our mounts, since it’s not a good idea to lope up a hill willy-nilly like that.
Zip, thank goodness, stood stock still. But Jeannie’s “fresh” horse, Bugsy, wanted to run.
A horror unfolded before my eyes: Jeannie held firm on the reins and made Bugsy very frustrated. Bugsy decided to buck . . . and buck . . . and on the third big twist, bucked Jeannie right off. She flew up in the air, and then all the way down – BAM! — onto her business end. OUCH!
I swear, all the way down, she had a look of consternation on her face as she gazed at me in confusion. Not because she’d been thrown – it was because SHE, the veteran horsewoman, had been thrown, and I, the klutzy novice, had stayed on. ‘Course, I had nothing to do with it. Bugsy was, after all, “fresh” – as in, it had been YEARS since he had been ridden.
(Note to self: thank Zippy’s trainer for making sure he was “dead broke” and would stand still despite the powerful equine peer pressure!)
That was the end of the trail ride. We collected Bugsy, and got back to the barn. Jeannie could barely walk but didn’t appear to have any serious injuries. She went home to nurse her aches and pains.
I felt so bad that I stopped into the local florist for a consolation bouquet. “Red roses mean love and daisies mean friendship,” I reviewed with the clerk. “But what flowers do you give someone who has been bucked off a horse?”
She replied immediately, with a glint in her eye: “Purple asters!”
Asssssss-ters! How clever and funny! Purple asters, it was.
Jeannie and I have since become very close friends. We both have big clumps of perennial purple asters in our yards to remind us of that day.
When the Lord roped us together, when we cowgirled up for friendship, it was a yeehaw kind of day. When you fall on your behind, it’s good to know that a good friend will be there to pick you up, help you get your hat back on straight, and mosey with you on back to the ranch. †
By Susan Darst Williams | www.RadiantBeams.org | Sports | © 2020