My obsession with horses goes back a very long time. I don't remember a time when I wasn't crazy about these magnificent creatures.
My very first memory of riding took place when I was around 4 or 5 years old in Conconully, Washington. There used to be a horse rental place in that small town. One day my mother, sister, cousin, and I took off on the hour-long trip from my childhood home in Oroville, Washington, for the express purposes of going horseback riding. The fact that I remember it so well tells you what kind of impression it made on me.
A grizzled old cowboy met us at the ranch and was our guide for the hour-long ride. The horses, as I recall, were saddled and waiting for their next customers, which just happened to be me, my sister, and our cousin. My mother didn't ride and had no interest in horses. It was, as it often is in the summer in Eastern Washington, most likely pushing 80 to 90 degrees, but that wouldn't have deterred me.
I distinctly remember the gelding I rode, an old chestnut Quarter Horse, named Jughead. How he came about the name of Jughead, I have no idea. To me he was a Pegasus, a four-footed wonder, and the horse of my dreams. Of course, any horse would have been the horse of my dreams.
Jughead wore his halter over his bridle. The attached leadrope was tied to the guide's saddlehorn, not that the old horse needed to be tethered. He'd have followed just fine without the rope. Once we started out, Jughead did what any bombproof kid's horse would do. He fell into line with the other horses and plodded along, ignoring my attempts to urge him at a faster walk, or anything faster for that matter. He did his job and did it well. He wasn't in this dude string to be a star. He was there to provide novices (greeenhorns) with a taste of horseback riding on a safe animal.
We rode out across the open rangeland dotted with sagebrush and scrub pine trees, down some ravines, crossed a small stream and circled back. I held onto the saddle horn and revelled in the feeling of the horse's movement underneath me, all that power and grace (not that Jughead was graceful). From my vantage point in the saddle, I saw the world from the different perspective. I knew this was where I wanted to be.
I tried to find the pictures of this outing to post here, but they were missing from the photo album which held the pictures for years. What I recall is a very little girl mounted on a full-sized horse with her feet barely reaching halfway down the horse's barrel. Of course, none of us wore helmets. Such a thing was unheard back then.
Jughead took care of me that day, bringing me safely back to the barn. He further cemented my lifelong love of horses. That old horse was my very first horseback riding experience, and I'll always remember him fondly.
I'd love to hear about your first ride on a horse. Please share with us.