Blog: Don’t Get Back On

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Burt Ross

Please forgive me in advance; I know many Malibuites love horses.

I do not. Horses are bigger than I am, and they do not like me. I will share with you a brief history of me and horses, and perhaps you will then understand why horses are not my best friends.

When I was in my early 20s (before Christ was born) and vacationing on the fabulously gorgeous island of Martha’s Vineyard, I thought I might emulate my dad and take up horse back riding. I went to a nearby stable, and there, a 14-year-old girl tried to teach me the basics of riding. No sooner did my first ride commence than I experienced a sharp pain. I had apparently gone down in the saddle just at the same time the saddle was heading up. I don’t know how that feels for the other gender, but for a guy, “NOT SO GOOD.”

I immediately shouted, “Whoa!” and brought the horse to a complete stop. My young guide asked why I had stopped. I did not know what to tell her, so out of my mouth came, “I need to rest.” She looked thoroughly confused and explained that we had just started the ride, and a rest was a strange thing to request since we had not ridden more than a few feet.

Over the years, I tried riding a couple of other times, but the results were always disastrous. I have a good friend Sally and she and her extended family own the Elizabeth Islands, a chain of islands off the coast of Cape Cod. The riding trails there are perfect, and one fine summer day, Sally’s son took me for a ride. Just as we reached an overlook, my horse decided it was not interested in the view, but preferred to return to its stable — immediately. And so that is exactly what it did, with me on top hanging on for dear life.

The horse headed directly through a forest, and I quickly realized that, were I not to cling on with my head lower than the horse’s, I most assuredly would be decapitated. I could hear the branches breaking only inches from my scalp, and one branch tore my jacket along my spine. I somehow survived, but barely.

And this brings me to my most recent encounter with a horse — a two-hour ride somewhere in Argentina’s Patagonia. You need to understand that I use the word “ride” quite loosely. A ride for me means the horse walks and I manage to stay on top. Everything had been going along just fine, and we were practically at the end of the trail where a barbecue was waiting my arrival. The horse was standing perfectly still when, for reasons I still cannot fathom, it reared up on its hind legs and deposited me on my butt. I noticed that one of my feet was still in the stirrup, and if that horse had decided to run, I would not be writing this column. I yanked my foot loose, twisted my ankle and pulled my groin.

Now, I may not be a mind reader, but I think I know what you horse lovers are thinking, “Get right back on the horse. Show the horse who is the boss.” Well, when it comes to horses, I am not the boss. The “Man Upstairs” is making it perfectly clear that he does not want me to ever again get near a horse, and I most certainly intend to oblige. He is telling me in no uncertain terms, “Don’t get back on.”