Howie the Horse

8 May

Animals are Assholes, Number Six: Howie the Horse

This is not a picture of Howie, but for our purposes, this is what Howie looked like:

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Howie was a handsome, strong horse whom I loved. I drew pictures of him in art class in high school and talked about him so much people thought he was my boyfriend and not a thousand-pound animal. I always insisted that my riding instructor gave me Howie and not any of the other horses for my lessons, even though the others had prettier names, like AngelFire and Sassafras Rose Garden or something equally ridiculous. But Howie was the best jumper there was, and I felt like this riding him:

ImageOver weeks of lessons in the fall and winter, Howie and I flew through the stable’s indoor ring and the jumps we’d take grew increasingly higher and trickier. Once summer rolled around, we moved to the outdoor ring and I endured sunburns and bug bites and horrible heat, just for the thrill of riding that glorious animal. And Howie loved it, too. I was sure I was his favorite rider and he was simply enduring other riders he was forced to carry. We were the best of friends. In my head.

In the outdoor ring, my instructor sat on top of a huge lifeguard stand. He could see my form perfectly from up there, and after spending a few minutes climbing his way up, he spent my lessons barking out orders to me. “Ride closer to the rail!” “You’re posting on the wrong foot!” “You leaned forward too early!” Fun times. But he knew what he was doing and I’d do whatever he told me.  One hot, dry day, Instructor had set up an intricate series of jumps for me and Howie to conquer. We’d do one, then we’d do two in a row, then three, building our way to completing a whole chain of increasingly difficult jumps, including some of those water ones with the cute mini rivers and fake bridges. Here’s where I should note that Howie hated water jumps. No matter whether they were easy or difficult, high or low, if they had water, good luck to you.

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I was not this fancy, but you get the drift.

Howie and I were on fire, clearing the jumps easily and gracefully. Until we came upon the first water jump. Our first time around, he flew toward it and then pulled a fake-left-go-right move and flew around it. He then attempted to act like that never happened and proceeded to head on towards the next jump. I pulled him to a stop as Instructor yelled instructions. “Howie-boy, it’s okay, we got this, buddy,” I whispered in his big, brown ear. We tried again. Second time around, he didn’t even try to fake me out; instead, he sailed over the jump before the water one and then just charged straight to the one after the water jump, effectively ignoring the water jump’s existence. Again, I halted him. “Howie.” I told him. “Stop the bullshit. This. Is. Happening.”

Third try‘s a charm, right? Well, we went for it. Or, I did. Three jumps down and next up, water. And it seemed like Howie was in it to win it. Right before you go over a jump, riders “stand” in their stirrups, heels down, leaning far forward over the horse’s neck. Once you do this, you are committed. Like, married-with-five-babies-never-look-at-anyone-but-your-spouse committed. There is no going back from this position. And Howie, in all his glory, screwed me.

With no warning, he stopped dead directly in front of the jump, and I went FLYING. I flew over the jump, cleared the water part, and landed hard in the dirt on the other side. Oomph. All of the air left my body. I remember slowly looking up to make sure I wasn’t about to be crushed by my traitor equine friend and saw my instructor jump straight from his high up perch to the ground. Oomph again, he hit the ground hard and rolled. He grabbed Howie’s reins somewhat unnecessarily, as the horse was just standing on the other side of the jump looking at me inquisitively as if to say “Hey, how’d you get over there? Weren’t just on my back? I’m hungry,” and passed him off to a stable hand. My breath came rushing back to me and I sat up just as Instructor reached me. “Holy shit, are you okay? That was ROUGH!”

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“Umm, yeah…” I said, dazed and seeing about four of him. “I’m okay. My arm hurts.”

“No shit it does!” he told me cheerfully. Very helpful, Instructor. “That was almost impressive, considering how far you flew.” He checked out my arm and deemed it amazingly unbroken. “Twisted.” he said in that blunt, horse stable way. “Twisted the wrist bad. You scared to get up there again?” he asked while pointing at Howie, who was trying his best to look innocent and not like a Person Tosser.

“Now?” I asked incredulously. “You want me to get back on him now?”

“Well, hell girl, there’s a reason they say you gotta get back on the horse when you fall. And you didn’t even fall, you got thrown like a bale of hay, which is worse. You don’t get on him now, you’re gonna leave, and think about how you could’a died or some shit, and you aren’t gonna come back.” Well, I didn’t want that to happen. So I shakily got back on Howie. I held his reins in my one good hand and we trotted around the ring, avoiding all of the jumps, until my mother came to pick me up.

I dismounted and kissed Howie’s big nose, all forgiven, as Instructor told my mother to take me to the doctor to be sure I didn’t break anything. My mom took me straight there, with me covered in the dry dirt from the ring, and I presented my now very swollen wrist and bruised arm. Now, this was only about a week or two after Sara the Potbellied pig practically ate off my hand. And this was the same doctor who had cleaned and wrapped that wound and given me a tetanus shot. He looked at my arm, spoke to me, and then asked my mom to leave the room. He then proceeded to say, “So, is everything… alright at home?” I realized quickly that the doctor thought I was being abused. And while I appreciate him looking out, what did he think, my parents BIT me and then threw me at a great speed into a dirt pile? I was wearing jodhpurs and riding boots!

“Yes sir, it’s fine, I really was bitten by a pig and then thrown off a horse. My father didn’t beat me or anything.” And though I loved Howie dearly before and after that incident, the fact that I had to explain to a medical professional that my parents had not, in fact, bitten me is why Howie the Horse is an Asshole.

*Pictures borrowed from freewebs.com, sodahead.com, delmarmeadow.com, jarvisinsurance.com*

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3 Responses to “Howie the Horse”

  1. denisem May 12, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    See, this is why you really ARE the damsel in the red dress – and not a damsel in distress who needs saving. Because Howie taught you how to get back up when you get thrown in life 🙂 It’s a miracle you survived childhood. xo

  2. Alex May 20, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Your butt looks good getting tossed off that horse 😉

  3. Dana Rampi-Cruz October 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I love that you got back on!!! I am sitting here with a horrible sprained, possibly torn, ankle from landing on my feet after a fall. I had to be rescued off the trail haha. If I could have actually stood up you better believe I would have rode my horse back home and then gone to the hospital. NOTHING will ever keep me from being afraid of getting back on. I would rather die under the hooves of a horse than any other way (aside from peacefully in my sleep of course). Riding has its dangers, but the benefits to my soul are soooo much greater!

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