The Grapevine Art and Soul Salon

Anne Lovett

Presentations: Anne Lovett

Getting Back in the Saddle

Once a horse-crazed teenybopper, I read with dismay of the decision to abolish mounted police patrols in the parks of Atlanta, and I cheered the recent decision to bring them back—even though once upon a time, my horse almost killed me.

Of course, the police weren't worried about horses being dangerous. Bicycles are cheaper, they said. Well, yes. Bicycles don't eat, and they don't leave behind the kind of evidence you can step in. But envision a splendid policeman on horseback, towering above miscreants, able to gallop after evildoers. Then envision a policeman in shorts and bicycle helmet, pedaling around. You see the problem. The dashing cavalier image is just not there.

It’s a romantic image that drives girls to horses. At eleven and twelve years old, they’re too young to date and too old for Barbies. They yearn for romance of any kind, and somehow, thundering along on a large four-footed beast provides them with a Wonder Woman feeling of power and glamour.

They don't realize that trying to control something as powerful as a horse brings with it real risks. This beast can kill or seriously hurt you if you’re not careful. Just think of the late Christopher Reeve.

But I suspect Superman would have gotten back on his horse if he had been able.

My mother, rural bred and a former rider herself, had no problem with my having a horse. My father wasn’t so sure. The horse he found for me was not the Arabian stallion of my dreams, but an old cow pony named Booger who helped out with the herd at my grandfather’s farm.

Booger had a mysterious attraction to mules. Every time we ventured out on dusty back roads and he spotted a mule, he tugged against the reins until I let him go to the mule, where they would touch noses over the fence and commune. Perhaps this mule fixation was due to Booger's somewhat mule-like temperament.

I tried in vain to make Booger do anything other than walk, trot, canter, and talk to mules. I wanted to jump fences, but he would not. Occasionally I would get him to hop over a small ditch, but it had to be very shallow. Very shallow.

One day, I was at my grandfather’s farm riding by myself way out in the fields. I saw a perfect place for jumping, a small creek that drained from an artesian well. “Look, Boog,” I said to him. “You’re going to jump that creek.” He flipped his ears and laid them back ever so slightly. This should have warned me, but I was twelve years old and invincible.

I circled far back from the creek, fixed it firmly in my sights, and then set him galloping. On and on we thundered, heading for the ditch. We approached closer, closer. I dug in my heels. Up and over…

He slid to a screeching halt, and I went flying out of the saddle—luckily not catapulting over his head, but veering off sideways. Unfortunately, I was not wearing riding boots with sturdy heels. My foot got tangled in the stirrup. There I was, hanging upside down, and the mulish horse was ready to run. He took off for the barn.

We can call it luck, or we can call it Providence, or we can thank my thrifty grandfather, whose rule was “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” The saddle had seen better days.

The dry, cracked stirrup strap broke and I tumbled into the dust. My horse raced out of sight. My ankle was sprained, but I managed to haul myself back to the barn. In due course, the horse was recovered, and I did get back on. But always after that day with proper high-heeled boots. And I can’t say I ever tried to make him jump again.

In time, as with most young girls, my horse craziness morphed into car craziness and boy craziness. In time, I married. The marriage didn't work out. We just weren’t right for each other. I thought about retiring from relationships. Then, remembering Booger, I bought a convertible. I also bought a pair of high-heeled boots. It was time to get back in the saddle.

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