Bareback Riding

Running free.

I pulled in the muddy driveway and stopped at the edge of the grass. The children tumbled out, racing toward the knotty wire fence, gazing at the horses. A sleepy cat stirred from the corner of the house. Summer heat bore through my jeans.

He sauntered out, the retired-principal-turned-full-time-horseman, and shook my hand. One by one, he took the kids inside the small circular pen. Each one had a turn, riding bareback, led by the horseman. After brief instructions on talking to and leading the horse with a simple bridle, each child had a turn holding the horse’s mane and directing the horse — at first with the cowboy’s leading, and then alone. I cheered each one onward and dutifully took pictures of this first: bareback solo riding.

None had ever been on a horse before.

And then he walked up to me, pushing his cowboy hat further up his forehead, sweat dribbling down his cheek.

“How ‘bout you?” he asked.  I could feel the sweat forming in my palms.

Me? Me– who had borne those three kids– sitting on a horse? I think the last time I sat on a horse I was eight, or maybe even younger. I protested, but the cowboy insisted I try, and I was promptly led to the pen.

I brushed the flies away. I was tentative, a little bit scared. After all, who learns to ride bareback first? Isn’t that for advanced riders? Where was the saddle?

How do I get up this enormous animal?

I learned just like the kids, how to talk to and lead the horse. We made numerous rounds in the pen with me practicing saying “whoa” and other sounds like “tss” and another one to make the horse go (which I can’t figure out how to write). I leaned my body this way or that to tell the horse which way to turn. Finally the cowboy announced it was time for him to let go and allow me to lead the horse on my own.

No, I insisted, because I didn’t trust myself. Or the horse, for that matter, afraid it would take off running and I’d either look foolish or fall off. (Actually as long as I could hold on, I didn’t much care about how I looked, if my worst fear should come true!)

Cowboy-teacher let go, and I was left holding the mane and leading the horse. I wasn’t confident, constantly feeling like I would fall right off into the muddy dirt– which looked like a long way down from where I was.  I wasn’t sure the horse would really listen to me. I was moving, but fear was growing, until it overtook, and  I had to tell the cowboy principal that I was afraid, kind of like when Peter realized he was walking on water and then began to sink.

My maiden bareback reign was very brief.

But, it did occur, and it was a beginning.

Just like I had been gently nudging the horse, God began gently nudging me. How often is my faith tentative? Brief? Succumbing to fears of the unknown? Unconfident?

The next time we visit our southern cowboy friend, I’m determined to return and bareback ride again, and to keep going until it’s comfortable, until that horse and I can take a long, relaxing ride.

And the cowboy will nod, knowingly.

***

Sharing a recent post from the archives with Imperfect Prose, as I travel this week….


Sharing, for the first time, in two places, here…

And, here:
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14 thoughts on “Bareback Riding

  1. Oh I hate those big flies – mean!!! Horses nice – horseflies MEAN. Oh – and the nudging analogy – so good. He does lead us, sometimes he has to yank a little hard on my mane – maybe not you – but me! I’m really glad I got a chance to come by today.

    I always heart your stuff. God bless and keep you and all of yours Anna.

    1. Ha ha, if only you knew how many times God has had to yank me!! But– thankful for a God who loves enough to yank and not let us flounder forever. Thanks so much for your comment, blessings!

  2. Hi, I came over from LL Barkat’s blog. It’s a good start! Approach and retreat is an excellent method of overcoming fear. We all have thresholds over which we tentatively tread. If we approach them, push them a little and retreat from them and then repeat the process, we can eventually do the thing that we fear. And the fears you experienced are so common to our lives: Fear of falling. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Of course, God is THE answer to all of these fears. But, sometimes we fear Him (in the wrong way) too. Blessings and, as they say in the horse world, “Have a good ride.”

    1. I hadn’t realized how many common fears I had included, but– there they are! I love how others see things I don’t see. Riding on, and thanks so much for commenting, God bless you.

  3. Oh, my! I think I would have been just as cautious as you, my friend! When I was a little girl, my sister and I would ride our neighbor’s ponies all the time. But it has been years since this behind has sat in a saddle–much less bareback!

    I do love the parallel you draw here. This is what Playdates is all about: adventure! Whether it is bareback riding or simple quiet time, it’s always exciting when we invite the Divine!

    So glad you linked up today, so glad to meet you and find this quiet place.

  4. Glad to have you visit this little place, friend, and to find lovely places to visit as well–such as yours. Enjoyed linking up with you!

  5. I loved this! My husband grew up with horses, and we had them for awhile after we married. I remember trying to show off to my parents, riding big ole Turk around the yard bareback and slipping, slipping until I was practically perpendicular. A little embarrassing. :)

    My husband would tell you to learn bareback. It’s all in the knees. It’s all in our to learn to cling and become one with the horse. Hmm. I feel my own post coming on. ;)

  6. I can imagine falling perpendicular. I was heading heading that way. ;) “Clinging”– I think I was afraid to cling– and I certainly wasn’t one with the horse. Now I realize — how much that poor creature had to put up with– me! (Horses are lovely creatures, aren’t they?) I’ll be looking out for your post! Thanks so much for stopping by, friend.

  7. i started bareback and i was some-what experienced already, but my friends have told me many times how hard it was for them to either start bareback or switch to bareback. i feel you though

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