It’s my birthday this weekend so you guys get a sad birthday story from my youth. HERE WE GO. YEAH!
“We’re going horseback riding for your birthday, ” my mother announced, out of nowhere.
“Horseback riding! Won’t that be fun! You need to invite some friends.”
I didn’t know what to make of it. I was solidly in my pre-teen years at this point and I’d never been into horses. I never lived out the cliche of “I want a pony for my birthday” or anything like that. I’d never even seen a horse in person. (In horse-son?) It’s not that I was anti-horse… I guess I was horse neutral?
This proposed birthday activity was out of left field and I had no idea why it had been decided upon for said activity.
“Mom, I have no friends to invite. Plus we’re going to be outside, it’s hot, and won’t it be expensive?”
“We’ll figure it out.”
I remember thinking we didn’t have to do this. I tried to get her to reconsider my birthday plans. But it was decided. The horses were booked and after a fight with my mother about her non-refundable deposit, we were on our way!
We drove out of town to a remote, pine tree covered setting. I was meeting up with seven of my closest gal pals!!! …actually, it was one or two girls I was on okay terms with. The rest were girls I invited as a means to try to score social points with them. This was happening, so why not. Maybe I’d get a friend out of this! It’s an opportunity! Be cool, Lauren. Stay positive!
The ride instructor gathered us all around and asked who the birthday girl was. I sheepishly raised my hand and there followed one of the most half-hearted renditions of “Happy Birthday To You” on record. But I ate it up. It was nice to be celebrated. It was My Day.
We mounted our horses, which was no small feat for a short lady such as myself. My horse was white with a dirty white and grey mane. She had grey spots here and there. I can’t recall the horse’s name, so I’ll give you a smattering to pick from. Just choose your favorite! There’s LUCKY, CLOVER, PICNIC, RICKI LAKE, PENCIL LEAD, and HORSE.
Got one? Awesome.
Our ride instructor informed us that we were heading out on a mostly straight trail. A half hour down and a half hour back. No need to really worry about getting the horses to speed up or using the reins. The instructor would lead us out, everyone would fall in line, and we’d be good. If anything, we could click our tongue and give the horse a bit of a nudge in the side with our heels. But they were trained and this would be an easy ride.
“Have fun!”my mother called.
“You’re not coming?”
“Oh, I don’t want to ride a horse.”
Off we went down the dusty trail. The popular girls paired off ahead and behind me, so I was left mid-pack. They chatted and laughed as we set out.
HORSE decided he was on a slow saunter. I mean, I’m sure horses aren’t meant to blaze these trails… but surely a solid mosey would do. Maybe a trot? Maybe? HORSE’s lag quickly became an issue.
“Can’t you hurry up? God, this is going to take forever.”
“Sorry, he’s kind of doing his thing.”
Some of the girls passed me. I panicked and called to the instructor.
“My horse doesn’t seem to want to go.”
“Oh, HORSE is just fine. Just give him a little nudge!”
I squeezed the beast and clicked my tongue, making a sort of clip-clop noise.
“Come on, dude.” I tried again. Nothing.
On the third attempt, HORSE overreacted a bit. With a loud exhale, he picked up and accelerated much, much faster than I expected. I shrieked and hung on to the nub on the front of the saddle for dear life. The instructor at this point had already moved on ahead and was wholly unaware that this gigantic animal had decided to teach me a lesson.
My freak out seemed to do the trick. He slowed down. I was on the verge of tears, but at least we were back to a slow saunter. Whatever you say, boss.
At the halfway point, the instructor held up the group to get us all back together again. I was ready for this trip to be over, so when they asked if we wanted to stop for a minute, I insisted we press on.
We started out again. This time around, though, HORSE’s speed would not be the issue.
“POOP. Lauren’s horse is POOPING.”
It was true. Now, if you’ve ever been around horses, you’ll know that this just sort of happens sometimes. Horses walk around and just go to the bathroom as they stand there. They’re an animal. It’s just something the body does. It would have been fine if it was a one-time thing. But it kept going.
Cries from the girls as we pressed on, laughing about my horse’s gastrointestinal state, complaining about riding behind me. Soon, I was passed by everyone in the party. Just me and my gassy horse, bringing up the rear.
We trudged back to camp. I arrived nearly 20 minutes later.
“What happened, Lauren?” my mom asked. I burst into tears. Luckily the other girls had left, so I could have my emotional collapse without further damaging my reputation.
The adventure ended with my mother fighting with the owner who wanted to charge us for the extra time spent riding. Once my mom explained that the horse wouldn’t stop pooping, they dropped it. He was probably slow because he didn’t feel well.
They offered for us to come back another day and ride for free, but I elected to skip it. I didn’t want anything to do with horses ever again.