Lisa Batten Kunkleman
If a horse named Mojo reared up like a wild bronco with a twenty-something man in the saddle, would you expect a fiftyish woman to get into that same saddle? My first clue to keep my feet on the ground should have been the extra twenty pounds I had to lift to get into the saddle at all. At my age, just because I could get my foot up to the stirrup on this extremely tall horse didn’t mean I should. As my kids and I sought a safe and friendly companion for our lonely mare whose field mate recently died, I had to test ride all contenders my horse dealing friends brought for us to test drive, I mean test ride.
After the horse experts changed the bit that was probably hurting Mojo’s teeth and causing the bucking action, I got on his brown and white speckled back and assumed the bucking was history. His pouty pink bottom lip and shaggy winter coat gave him a cuddly, gentle look. He didn’t flinch when I mounted and he walked with my slightest heeltap. Perfect. We rode around the pasture and bypassed two pokey riders. Approaching a mucky place ahead, I guided Mojo off the trail and through the trees to stay on drier ground. That was a bad plan. I realize now it wasn’t a bad bit, it was the tooth pain any bit caused when the reins pulled sideways to make turns. Mojo needed a horsey dentist to fix a bad tooth. Guess we learned that a little late.
As I turned him left, he headed for the open gate toward the barn and my pulling back on the reins just made it worse. He wasn’t slowed one bit, no pun intended, by my five-syllable southern “Whoa” either. I was determined he wouldn’t take me into the barn and whack my head on the doorframe so I pulled back harder and he bucked higher.
I thought about jumping off but couldn’t decide how to do it safely, so I flopped around the saddle like a drunk girl on a mechanical bull in a B-rate movie. Since the bucking ride didn’t stop, I gave in to gravity, which pulled me off to the left. I aimed for ground as far away from Mojo as possible in case he didn’t stop his tantrum. The damp ground met my left knee and hip, and I caught myself with my left arm. Man, was that a jarring feeling. There was a shock going from my back up into the base of my head followed by a tingle like I’ve never experienced. Mojo calmed immediately and stood there like a big dog with a saddle, looking sweet and innocent.
Since my young adult kids were yelling for my medical stats, I stood up and walked toward them. Channeling my best John Wayne swagger and attitude, I said, “I lost my Mojo.” Then, “He didn’t like that bit even a little bit.”
They all laughed, except my oldest daughter, Danielle. They even said my fall was pretty graceful. It would have been worse if I stiffened before hitting the ground. Danielle was unimpressed with my gracefulness.
She said through tight teeth and with misty eyes, “I bet you never had to watch your mother get bucked off a horse! It was horrible. I thought you’d die.”
I didn’t tell her I thought the same thing. We just had a nice long hug. “You’re right, I haven’t. I’m sorry I scared you. I scared me too,” I said.
My middle-aged horsewoman buddy, Pam, who has been thrown many times, led me to sit on a log with her to watch the kids ride the safer horses. She whispered, “You need to fill the tub with hot water and soak in Epsom Salt cause we don’t bounce back like we used to. One good thing about being over fifty is, if you fall off a horse, you know that rule about getting back up there? We don’t have to do that anymore.”
Twenty-four hours later, after a muscle relaxer-induced sleep that lasted till lunchtime, I’m sporting a messed up shoulder, a scraped wrist, and a rainbow-colored knee. Perhaps I should start acting my age but I feel more like Evil Kneivel than Poor, Pitiful Pearl. I won’t get back on Mojo, but I’ll definitely get back in the saddle and I plan to stay seated next time. I may be sore but it was worth it all to see the photo my daughter’s boyfriend snapped as I was flung off Mojo. I’ll probably frame that one for the mantle. I could have injured a shoulder falling down at home just carrying a laundry basket or I could have been thrown off a horse at the ripe young age of fifty-two. I know that just because I used-a-could, doesn’t mean I should, but since I survived the incident, I sure am glad I did. We’ve got more potential horse pets to test in a couple of weeks. Guess like the old song says, I know I’ll be, “Back in the Saddle Again.”
(This incident happened several years ago and we did find a cute white-faced horse buddy for our mare. I’m pretty sure this event helped age me more than I knew at the time. Especially my left knee. And about that back in the saddle thing, maybe once in awhile but the swagger is definitely gone. I’ve turned the riding over to the younger generation. But not with a horse named Mojo.)