When I was about eight years old, my grandfather bought a palomino quarter horse and a pinto pony for his grandchildren to ride. I loved horses, but I hadn’t been around them much, so I was cautious. Since we lived in town, we boarded Mr. Ed and Dan with a family in the country. We didn’t get out there often, but my father would take my two brothers and me to ride on an occasional Sunday afternoon.
The first time we visited our horses, I rode Dan, the pony. I started out well enough, with my father holding onto the bridle and leading. We hadn’t gone far, maybe a hundred feet, when Dan started coughing and pulling away from him, finally jerking the reigns out of his hand.
Before I knew what was happening, the little pony turned and galloped down the gravelled road at full speed. No one really knew what to do, especially me, as I stared down the winding road, certain Dan would carry me off to parts unknown and no one would ever find me.
My eight-year-old mind came up with a solution, however, and I simply let go of the reigns and flew out of the saddle. (I can still see the pony’s back moving farther and farther away.) I landed on my side on the graveled road (I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone), and glanced up to see Dan lazily trotting toward the barn! I remember thinking if I’d known that, I would’ve stayed in the saddle.
Some first aid cream later on was all I needed for the scrape I endured, but my interest in riding demanded more. The man who boarded our horses said, “You can ride Mr. Ed bareback.”
I realize that some say it’s best to get right back on a horse after such an incident, but I didn’t really think a larger animal without a saddle was the answer. We continued to visit our horses at the farm, and I believe I rode some more, but the thing I remember most is my younger brother on Mr. Ed with my father leading him. Perhaps because he feared a repeat episode of what happened to me, my brother said, “Don’t–let go!”
An instant later, Daddy let go, and Mr. Ed trotted into a field, with Johnny holding on for dear life. A little later he asked my father, “Why did you let go?”
“You said to let go.”
To this day, I’m not sure whether my father was in a teasing mood, or if he really didn’t hear Johnny say, “Don’t.”
We didn’t keep the horses at the farm long, but I took riding lessons at a camp later on, which helped my fear of horses to subside.