One of Richard’s birthday gifts was horseback riding at a nearby ranch. I had mentioned wanting to do this a couple of months ago, and he graciously granted my wish.
It’s been over 30 years since I’ve been on a horse. We were staying at Tall Timber Lodge in Durango, Colorado. It was true rustic. No phones, no televisions. The only way in and out was by train or helicopter. But spoiled rustic. Only twelve cabins, great food and helicopter rides to the mountain top for lunch. Our then nine-year old son and I went horseback riding with a grizzled guide who “knew the ropes,” so to speak. I do not recall any instructions, just an easy ride through the woods.
Fast forward to last week. I announced my novitiate status to the Marshall Creek Ranch staff. Folks were very accommodating and assigned me to Blackjack, a gentle horse who reportedly has been at the ranch the longest.
Our guides gave many instructions, most of which I remembered. Hold on to the saddle horn with my left hand, and to the reins with my right. Let the reins slack except to instruct the horse. Steer right or left. Pull to slow or stop. I thought it was interesting that, if you kept pulling after the horse stopped, he thinks you want him to go reverse. Sure enough, Blackjack started walking backwards when I did not loosen the rein.
When crossing streams, lean backward on the downhill and forward on the uphill. The one instruction I forgot was how to trot. I did not stand straight as earlier told, but leaned forward. The first time we trotted, I bounced on that saddle like a paddle ball tethered by thin elastic to a wooden paddle. You know, the cheap toy we had that entertained us for hours until the elastic broke. Luckily, the guide corrected me and I bounced a lot less. I still bounced, though, and my bruised sitting bones reminded me of the ride for the rest of the week. In fact, my entire body ached for several days.
The trails were dry, the woods were quietly preparing for sunset, and a couple of deer delighted us with their gentle presence. It was fun riding with Richard. This is literally his neck of the woods. He does frequent trail runs, and he knows each section very well. He showed us short cuts that he has taken, identified persimmons and blackberry bushes , described what was just beyond the trees, and pointed out numerous funnel spiders. The funnel-shaped webs were on the ground to capture unsuspecting critters . . . or horse riders. I am not keen on spiders.
I was trying to come up with a word to describe this experience. FUN was the first word. Not the giddy kind of fun where you can’t stop laughing. It was the fun of something-new-is-happening, of how-exciting-is-this! fun. I paid attention to everything around me, and I was keenly aware of the uniqueness of each moment.
But there was also another word. FEAR. Not frightening and abject fear, but the fear that I might not be able to handle a problem. I was nervous about falling off Blackjack. I tried taking IPhone pics, but was afraid I’d drop the phone. My water bottle hardly left the saddle bag. I never let go of the saddle horn or reins. Never.
I realized the word I was looking for is ADVENTURE. Adventure is when the awe of an experience walks hand in hand with fear yet you don’t want it to end. And, when the experience does end, you think, “I DID IT!” Would I do it again? Of course!
Thank you, Richard, for giving me ADVENTURE for my birthday!