Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting My Daily O.A.T.S

Photo courtesy of O.A.T.S.
I love horses. They are fast, strong and beautiful, and I've been lucky enough to enjoy a few rides at my great uncle's home, with a few trail rides thrown in elsewhere. For the most part, I've loved it, but I've also had some bizarre experiences with the powerful animals.

At 16, my parents took my cousin and me to Glacier National Park in Montana for a family vacation. White water rafting, hiking — and of course — horseback riding were all part of the experience.

Once on my horse though, it was evident that he had taken in air before he was saddled. Not wanting to be a pest, I clenched my thighs and attempted to stay center. About forty-five minutes into the trail we had passed picturesque views of mountains, valleys and streams. We rode single file along a narrow strip that hugged the side of a mountain. And that's when the saddle went sideways — and me with it.

I gasped.

My cousin, who was ahead of me, turned back.

"Valerie, you are going to DIE!" she screamed. The trail leader stopped immediately and came to my rescue. Even after he tried to remedy the saddle though, it never did get tight.

Another time, my husband and I went trail riding near Port Austin. God bless Rob, he didn't stop sneezing the whole time. He also never received any instruction. When we signed up, he selected "beginner" rider, while I selected "average." He was provided a stool to mount his horse, and that was the extent of his training. We went off with a group, assuming that the man in front was the trail leader. Not ten minutes into the ride, a pudgy kid donning a helmet was bucked off of his horse. That's when we learned that a twelve-year-old boy was the leader. At this time, my saddle became loose again (am I cursed?) but now, I was able to dismount and tighten the damn thing.

My latest encounter was during a volunteer experience at Hess-Hathaway Farm Park. After signing a waiver, I was asked to brush and clean the hoofs of the horse. After being told that I needed to show Champagne that "I was the boss," the farmer also added that she had been bitten pretty hard by the pretty palomino. No thanks.

This week, I will take on horses again, but I am more comfortable knowing that I will be with trained professionals. O.A.T.S. — Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles — is located in Clarkston and works with disabled individuals through riding and related activities. On Friday, I will help with camp preparations and feed the horses. This will allow me to get some background on the camp so that I can actually help out in the morning with riders the next week. This will be the first back-to-back gig I'll be doing, but it seems like such a great organization, that I can't pass it up.

To learn more about O.A.T.S., visit http://www.oatshrh.org/

1 comment:

  1. As a kid, I loved horses and wanted to ride them so badly, but my Dad wouldn't allow it — too dangerous, he said. When Superman had his horseback riding accident, my Dad capitalized on it and I knew I'd never be able to ride. But as a teenager, I'd ride with my friends and not tell anyone. My third time out, I was put an Arabian jumper who was used to good riders and immediately recognized I was not one. That horse tossed me in about ten seconds and I shattered my wrist. Of course, my Dad found out and I'm sure he basked in glory saying "I told ya so!" Oh well — as they say, you gotta get back in the saddle!