As part of our “farm kid training” my parents made all three children endure this thing called “Horse 4-H”.
Someday perhaps Brooke will give you her version of it because it is by far, the best. But for our purposes today I am going to steal a moment from my “little” brother Buff.
Buff rode Chief. I believe you have already met Chief, but if not here is his Bio:
Chief is 29 years old Welsh pony. His position at Appenzell farm is recession proof, even though he once bit Lindsey, ran across two hayfields with first-time-rider Brooke, and rolled in fresh horse plops ten minutes after getting bathed, shampooed, and manicured for a horse show.
His admirable qualities of: untying all varieties of boy scout knots with his lips, being able to gallop and eat alfalfa at the same time, and convincing large draft horses that he is higher in the pecking order, all make him worth keeping around.
Chief’s favorite food is whatever is growing on the other side of the fence. His best friend was a dog named Jeddie. (Who has since passed). His favorite speed is “The Nailgun Trot” and his favorite pastime is practicing ventriloquism.
Back in the day Chief and Buff were quite the pair. Buff was an adventurous horseman/ponyman and got along quite nicely (much better than his sisters) at this whole “Horse 4-H” thing. There are seven events that “Horse 4-H” kids compete in:
1. A written test. Brooke’s favorite as it didn’t involve touching a horse.
2. Halter: This might have had a fancier name…but essentially you walk around an arena leading your horse/pony, trying not to get run over by the bigger horses, and showing off that fine shampoo you gave your horse/pony….before he rolled in horse plops.
3. Showmanship: Competitors walk, trot, and lope for a score based on how many silver inlays are in their saddle, and if they can cut as many other horses off without the judges seeing.
4. Trail Riding: A horses imagination is tested as it is required to: 1. Cross a bridge 2. Walk past a “boogie man” and 3. Back up through a complicated course without the use of a rear-view mirror.
5. Barrel Racing: Yea yea. The best event. Run a clover around three barrels and don’t knock’em down.
6. Pole Racing: The Second best event. Run really fast weaving through poles and don’t knock’em over.
7. Wild Card Race: I can’t remember the name of this waste of time event. Essentially, you had to weave through barrels, and poles, and then finish the race by jumping an English style jump.
Buff and Chief excelled at all of them. Buff passed the written test, he kept Chief from biting the judges during Halter, he lapped all the horses in Showmanship, he tried eating the “boogie man” in Trail, and he totally rocked it in all the speed events. No, they didn’t win, but Buff would lean way forward on Chief, and would kick as hard as he could. Chief would pin his ears back, stick out his tongue and run as fast as he could. It was a little like watching a parent and a toddler race, but at least Buff and Chief thought they were going fast!
Then came that darn Wild Card Race. It was a bit confusing for a horse. Typically, western horse riders don’t run around arena’s jumping jumps, which is a good thing because, well, have you ever noticed that English saddles are missing this thing called a saddle horn? Not only that, but Chief has Small Mans Disease. He thinks he is bigger than he is. So from far away a jump looks like a little thing, but up close its like, “Whoa!”
Despite any hesitancy because of confusion, Buff had confidence in good old Chief.
Buff led Chief into the arena.
Chiefs feet were prancing and his ears were already pinned back.
The timers sat ready on either side of the finish line. The whistle blew, and they were off!
Clovering around the barrels!
Weaving through the poles!
Racing like mad to the jump!
Chief pulls the park break and hoof-stops it to a halt. Buff bounces precariously in the saddle.
The crowd looked on lazily. (Who hasn’t seen a horse pull this trick?)
Buff kicked Chief as hard as he could.
Chief shakes his head.
Buff kicks again and gives Chief some more rein.
Chief stomps his feet.
And then, like it was an afterthought, Chief hurtles himself over the jump while unprepared Buff flies through the air over Chiefs head…
and lands just shy of the saddle, but on Chiefs neck. The reins have fallen. The saddle is dangling off the pony. The crowds in the stands unanimously wipe the mustard out of the corner of the mouth, crane forward with interest, and take another bite of hot dog.
Buff’s eyes widen when he realizes the closeness of the possible fates he avoided. (Landing on the horn…not so good. Landing on the ground….also, not so good). He has now found himself uncomfortably close to being disqualified, and awkwardly dangling from a pony’s neck. If he wanted he could have put a foot down and peddled to the finish line, but Buff is not a quitter.
So with a thematic, “Ha yah!” he patted Chiefs neck for encouragement and the two cross the finish line (eventually) looking like an inebriated donkey wearing a dangling monkey scarf.
The audience cheered as Buff slide off Chiefs neck to take a bow.
During the awards ceremony Buff was awarded an elegant white ribbon. (The nice thing about horse 4-H is that you always get a ribbon).
I have felt like this year has been the year of the unseated horseman.
I don’t have a friend, family member, or acquaintance who hasn’t been affected in some way by our shifty economy and its clingy residue that grips our daily lives and the decisions we make financially and even creatively. Doubt, worry, concern, stress, and fear swim a bit more freely through our minds.
I think many people feel as if they were speeding through life, weaving through the barrels and poles with ease, when all of a sudden they find themselves dangling unexpectedly from their ride.
The remedy for this problem is self prescribed and unique in every case, but perhaps we can all have the same mantra: Hold on!
And as an afterthought, my favorite saying: “The race is this step now. There is a bucket at the end, you can puke then!”
Lindsey Maughan is a mango enthusiast with a composite degree in modern and ballroom dance from BYU. She believes that when you read books you should take notes in the margins, that sandwiches taste better when cut on the diagonal, and that most mundane tasks can be improved upon with the right background music.
She lives with her tall, dark, and logical husband, and her almond eyed, airplane loving daughter in Hawaii. In April of this year they will welcome a second child, a boy, into the family. Both parents hope he will grow to love hiking, vacuuming, and Indian food.
Lindsey loves her jogging stroller, her ipod, good books, her journal, music, writing, dancing, cooking, yoga, and going on dates with her husband.