Into The Ditch

This photograph reminded me of when my family went horseback riding together. We lived in Kansas City at the time and were touring some of the sights in Colorado. I remember being amazed and delighted that my family would do this, usually we went boating which I liked very much, but I loved horses. The stablehands loaded my father, mother, sister, brother, and myself onto sleek, healthy horses at the stable. This was in the days before mandatory guides accompanied horse rentals so we were given free rein to explore the mountainside trail on our own. I remember being worried because my family sat in their saddles like sacks of potatoes. None of them seemed to have any inkling that their horses would need to be directed with even more attention than driving a car or a go-cart. I had had a friend who had a pony and from watching her work with it I knew that horses have a will of their own and the strength to impose it. They are strong and beautiful but not very intelligent and riding them can be very dangerous without much warning.


Long story made short, our herd of five was soon galloping recklessly down the mountain. None of us had any control over our horses and for some reason that would make sense only to a horse, all of the horses headed for a deep ditch that was sloping through the trees and down the mountain. I saw my parents and my siblings give up on the reins, grab their pommels, and plunge into the ditch atop their horses. I tried to keep my horse out of it but after flailing against the reins on the lip of the ditch, my horse plunged in with the other horses as horses tend to do. So fifteen minutes into the ride my parents put an end to it, and we walked our horses back to the rental office. As we drove away I was very disappointed to have had so little time with the horses, but my family seemed satisfied with the experience. They excitedly said they had been particularly impressed with my horse rearing up and sliding into the ditch on its hind legs. They could not imagine how I managed to not fall off. I could not imagine how they had failed to control their horses, but as usual I kept most of my opinion to myself. I think of myself as serious rather than a sullen person, but on that day I was more than likely rendered sullen. I remember, however, being impressed and proud that as a family we all had the athleticism to stick our saddles in the turbulence of our first and only ride together. None of us had ever been on a horse before. To my knowledge they never rode again. When I grew up I rode horses many times, at every opportunity, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Caption: Annmarie (left) admonishing

her little brother Peter (right) to keep control of his horse—circa 1960


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