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Chapter One

Posted by greygelding , 29 February 2016 · 1,220 views

My First Rides

The first time I sat on a horse, well actually it was a pony, occurred around the time I turned five years old. A man knocked on the front door one day and he had a rope in his hand. On the other end of the rope was a magnificent steed. It was large and beautiful. Now I was just a small boy but to me the Shetland pony loomed large on our front lawn. He was traveling through and offering to take children's pictures with his pony. Excitedly, I was dressed up in a western costume complete with chaps, vest, and a hat. As I sat on "my" trusty steed, no cowboy could have been prouder at that moment as my picture was taken. That evening, and for months to come, I would fall asleep at night, dreaming of riding the trails and chasing bad guys over the prairie. No horse was faster than my steed and I never failed to bring the culprits to justice.

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As the years passed we moved into a mobile home park in The Los Angeles area. Behind the park was an old stable, dilapidated and in the process of being torn down, it was the perfect place to play. Connie was a pretty young girl who lived in the mobile home park and in the afternoons we could be found galloping through the stable area. I was Fury and she was Flicka. We would gallop around the grounds, in and out of the stalls, always escaping from the bad guys and saving the day.

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My family took many on camping and fishing trips, one or two weekends a month, to the Sierras and we would spend our vacations there as well. On one vacation well before I reached my teenage years, my father decided that a fishing trip on horseback to a mountain lake would be fun. The excitement was building within me as this would be my first ride on a real horse. Adding to the thrill was the promise of adventure on the mountain trails like a real cowboy. Be careful what you wish for. With all the fishing gear and lunch packed on a packhorse the guide lead the way down the trail. Crossing streams, across meadows, and following narrow switchback trails we made our way through some of the most beautiful country I had ever seen in my young life. The horses had obviously seen all this before as they plodded along somewhat bored with the whole thing. As we climbed up the narrow path they would swing their heads out and look at the vast country dropping sharply off beside us. I was in heaven, my sister was nervous, my father seemed to be concerned about something, but my mother was white as a sheet. She was terrified of her sightseeing horse looking left instead of watching the trail straight ahead. One misstep would mean a fatal plunge down the side of the mountain, a drop of about a thousand feet. Kids live forever so I wasn't concerned at all. Fortunately our mounts knew their business and after a few hours of riding we came to our destination. It was a beautiful but shallow lake full of golden trout.

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First we needed to dismount. I was short for my age so from horseback it was a long way down to the ground. Dad instructed me to stay mounted until he could come assist me down. Well, I was a cowboy at last and no help was needed. I started to get off and my left foot slipped through the stirrup. I lost my balance and found myself hanging from the stirrup by my left foot oblivious to the danger I was in. Anybody who has seen a western is familiar with a rider being dragged to his death with a foot stuck in the stirrup. Fortunately my trusty steed really didn't care and stood quietly while my worried and then angry father came to my rescue. "I told you to wait for me! You could have been killed!" Properly scolded I waited patiently as the horses were secured and the guide unsaddled them. At last it was time to go fishing. The trout were reluctant to bite and those we did catch were small true to their type. We returned and had lunch before hitting the return trail.

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Now we were tired and a bit sore which made the trail home seem like a long one. As we started back we were met by 3 riders headed up. One of them was the ranch boss who told the guide that he was driving a herd of horses back from the upper pasture and to keep an eye out and to make sure we were way off the trail. Dad was bringing up the rear and he kept looking back watching for the horse herd which we all knew was coming. He gave a couple of warnings but the guide said "Don't worry, we have plenty of time". We were on the trail crossing a rock slide about 100 yards long when the herd thundered around the corner and approached the slide. We were about half way and there was no way we would make it in time. My father was one of those people who could make the right decision in a crises and would act immediately. "OFF THE HORSES!" was the command shouted behind me, leaving no doubt that he meant immediately. He was dismounting as he shouted and swept me off my horse. Depositing me at the uphill side of the trail I heard him yell "CLIMB"! Instantly I was scrambling up the rocks as were my mother and sister. Somehow my father had secured the reins of his and my mother's mounts and led them into a wider spot in the trail sheltered by a large boulder. As the herd of about 20 horses reached us and thundered past I could see the guide, still mounted, trying to control his mount and the the pack horse. It leaped past him jerking him awkwardly from the saddle. Fortunately for him he landed in the dust at the side of the trail with a thump and rolled out of harms way. I was young enough that I really didn't appreciate the danger and found the whole thing very exciting. I had never seen that many horses in one place and a stampede was more than I could have hoped for. For some reason my father didn't share the same sense of adventure.

Following the herd was a very angry ranch boss and his ranch hands. Instructing everyone to wait there, he returned a while later alone with my sister's horse and mine in tow. As we mounted up he turned to the guide "You walk! I'll deal with you later". The rest of the ride, guided by the ranch boss, was uneventful and we arrived at the ranch unscathed. After meeting privately with the boss my parents came from the office seemingly satisfied with the outcome.

In the years that followed dad wanted to take another trip from a different ranch to a different lake. My mother and sister politely declined so it was guys day out. This time the ride was shorter, nice trails, without the cliffhanging views. The lake was full of hungry Kamloop trout. They were large and full of fight which made the whole experience a delight.

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On another vacation my father and I repeated the ride and it was every bit as enjoyable. The ladies refused to get on another horse ever again. I didn't know it at the time but it would be years before I would ride again. Little did I suspect the large role horses would play on the direction my life would take.

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  • CBJ, ShadowfaxArabians, tuffyk and 7 others like this

Feb 29 2016 08:26 PM

I would like a signed first edition!!!!

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