But, today was the day. The wife of our French instructor kindly offered to bring her girlfriend and their two horses so we could ride together on a 15km trail road beginning from our farm. That is one of the very cool things that we have here - miles upon miles of trails meandering through vineyards, prairies, forests and lakes all completely open and available to the public. Unfortunately Caleigh had to babysit and could not join us for this maiden ride, but after all that happened today, that was probably a good thing as I'm sure she would have found herself wanting to act like she had no idea who I was.
It all started with Pepito, the donkey. As I somewhat nervously went to round up Green (that is the given name of my horse. In fact, it's actually Green Star which completely baffles me, but that's another story), Pepito darts out of the electric fence enclosure and starts running toward the 'grass is greener' pasture next door. Then Green gets spooked because I probably screamed out, so I have a jumpy horse in one hand and an electric fence handle in the other and I'm starting to freak. Oh, and there's a few more horses milling around near the opening as well, but I somehow manage to close it behind us without electrocuting us and walk Green up to a post where I make numerous failed attempts at tying a slip knot. I am fairly certain that my brain lacks the synapse for knot tying and I am even more certain that Green thinks I'm a complete idiot.
With Pepito running free, I yell for Hank who's in the kitchen making Daube (a delicious french beef stew) for dinner later this evening and together we manage to get the donkey corralled in the adjacent field which sets off the other horses whinnying and running back and forth ("Look, the damn donkey's getting all the long tall grass all to himself!), which makes the tacking process of Green a bit more challenging. For one thing, as much as I've loved horses my entire like, I had not actually groomed, saddled and put a bridle on all by myself. Knowing my limitations, I had earlier consulted my faded 1970's edition of "Your first Pony" as well as viewed numerous YouTube videos on haltering, tacking and tying slip knots of course. I actually managed okay and thankfully Isabelle and her friend arrived shortly after and could double check everything I'd done.
So, once groomed and tacked, the next thing you do is mount the horse. Pretty simple concept. I'd done it many times before, but I was much younger or had used a chair or friend's leg up to help hoist me onto the saddle. Not this time though. I put my foot in the stirrup and heaved with all my might but did not get very far. Now that was sort of embarrassing. Let's try again. Foot in stirrup, hand on saddle, super heave-ho, and better than the first time, but gravity brought me back down again. Hmm, Everyone's waiting around and ready to go and Cindy cannot get on her horse. So, one more time I follow the steps and heave until I am literally sprawled on my stomach lying on Green's back. But, I'm up and can somehow manage to bring my right leg around to the other side, sit up adjust my cockeyed helmet and pretend that was exactly how I planned to do it all along.
We begin our trek which I'm guestimating to be in the range of 3 hours and I'm looking forward to practice speaking french with my trail mates for the duration. But, just as we come to the first bend in the road above Petit Clos, Green gets spooked by a bird that darted towards us from a nearby bush and she slightly reared and then got even more agitated when I pulled back hard on her reins. I lost my balance and slipped off the not-broken-in brand new English saddle and land flat on my back. That would be on the ground right next to a vineyard post I just barely missed with my head. Are you kidding me? This cannot be happening. This is my dream to have my very on horse. Hell, I've been asking for one for Christmas since I was 12. Now I have my dream and she is going to kill me!
So I have two choices and I'm sure my riding partners are really starting to wonder what the hell they were thinking when they invited me. I can either quit right there and walk Green back home and frankly, that really sounds pretty wonderful about now. Or I can get back on. That doesn't sound very fun and plus, we've all seen my gracefulness when mounting a horse just moments before. Do I really have to do it again in front of everyone? And of course I cannot help but remember the "get back in the saddle" mantra or the horse will know your fear. Hell, mine already has a pretty clear idea of how clueless I am, I reason, so what is this 'getting back on the horse' really going to accomplish? But even with my head still ringing from the fall, I opt for living dangerously and miraculously haul my sore body back up on Green.
The rest of the ride actually went without a hitch although I would be lying if I didn't think, "please don't let me die" more than once. I began to breath in and out slowly just to calm my nerves and it seemed to work. Green's great though and I feel like we actually got to know each other over the 6 hour ride together - that would be the primary reason of why I have no feeling in my legs right now. I learned what she does and does not like. She likes my singing yippee kai yay and does not liked to be reined in too tight. She also likes to be first in line….all the time. And I'd like to think that she learned that as incompetent as I might have seemed at times today, I was not one to give up. In fact, she was stuck with me so we better make the most of it. The one thing I did regret was not practicing much french with the girls during the ride. As I apologetically mentioned to Isabelle on the ride home,"La prochaine fois, je vais essayer de parler plus français. Cette fois, je voulais juste rester en vie" The next time, I will try to speak more french. This time I just had to concentrate on staying alive.
She laughed pretty hard at that and I only hope she didn't also think, "what do you mean, a next time?!"
Ah, to be living the dream.