I figured I'd tell you a story....of a little big girl, from so many years ago.....
*cue the wiggly out of focus picture....and fade in to a sunny afternoon in San Antonio, Texas*
So. There I was, a chubby little 13 year old girl on vacation with my mother and stepfather. I was shy, clueless, and anti-social. But I knew one thing: I loved horses! I had a Breyer foal that my Uncle had given me for my birthday, and a large plastic Breyer-type horse, and somehow along the way had acquired a saddle for the big horse. I didn't have a bridle, so I made one out of a red shoe-lace. Creative and resourceful!!
Anyhoo- I was on vacation in San Antonio, Texas, with my mother and stepfather, visiting some old friends of his. It was BORING!! At least for an anti-social 13 year old. There were only so many "remember the time during that one time" stories that I could handle overhearing, and with it being humid outside, there wasn't alot to do while we stayed with my stepfather's friends. But these family friends were quite hospitable, making amazing breakfast burritos and showing us all that the San Antonio tourist would have wanted- the RiverWalk, the Alamo, of course, and the Buckhorn Museum, full of all sorts of dead animal oddities and the world famous "Wall of Horns". I also learned that, at a place called Brackenridge Park, there was a horse stable. They rented out horses by the half hour, and that was the one thing I decided I must beg to do.
I begged and pleaded, and I couldn't tell you how much it cost at the time (the stable seems to be closed today), but my mother agreed to let me rent out a horse for 30 minutes. There was a short safety questionnaire to fill out, which asked for one's experience in the art of horsemanship so they could determine what type of horse you could handle, and if you needed supervision. I felt that in my lengthy 13 years, after having read every book on horseback riding, every fictional novel involving a horse, and having studied the parts of the horse, parts of tack, including the differences between english and western, and proper terminology for riding.
All out of books. That's where my knowledge had come from. (Of course it's all gone now, but back then, my mind was a net, catching every tidbit of info possible.) No practical hands-on knowledge whatsoever. But I thought I knew everything one could ever know about horses. So, when the paper on the clipboard asked me how experienced I was, I checked the box that said:
Somewhat experienced/ridden a few times
It was right below
No experience/have never been on a horse
and right above
Very experienced/have ridden numerous times
Heck, I knew how to go and stop, so I was sure I knew it all.
You're getting where this is going, aren't you?
The horse's name was Trace. He was big, brown, and saddled up with western tack. The riding area was around 100 feet away from the stable, fenced, and was a big wooded area, filled with trees and shrubs. And the staff there would lead you out to the entrance to this area, and set you loose.
First, to get to the riding area, you had to cross a small creek. My horse, Trace, was apparently extremely fond of water, apparently. He stopped in the middle of the creek and began to thwap his front hoof in the water, splashing himself and me in the process. With each slap of his hoof, he got happier and happier, knowing the kid on his back was a complete idiot about horses. The guide who had led me out to the riding area stood behind me, yelling, "Just give 'im a kick, he'll go!" *splush splush!* I kicked, and that horse splushed, thwapped, and all out had a grand old time in that silly little creek. Finally, I gave a hard kick, and he finally moved forward, and allowed a complete novice to direct him around.
How dumb was I??? Sheesh....I had allowed myself to be put on a horse (a bored, water obsessed bomb-proof horse, but a horse nonetheless), to ride around in a tree filled, non populated area by myself!!
Oh, and this was about 20 years ago, and wearing a helmet wasn't even thought of, not by me, or apparently by the riding stable that this horse came out of. So I was without helmet, proper riding gear (I had sneakers on for heavens sake...big, LA Gear sneakers!) or proper instruction. I turned what could've been a peaceful meandering through the San Antonio wilderness into a 30 minute kickfest that left the horse annoyed and me frustrated. It seemed to easy in all of those books!
So this'll be a lesson for me to remember, and hopefully for you to take heed- be honest with your skill level. Confidence is key, but so is knowing your limits- never lie to anyone about how much experience you have no matter how much it bruises your ego. I could have used that 30 minutes to allow a guide to come out with me to teach me skills, instead I wasted my time. And Trace's time too.