By 1957 my sisters were ten and fourteen and I was twelve.
For three years our parents had been packing two horses with camping supplies to support a family of five for a week in the backcountry of the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.
It seems our parents had had enough. This time they pitched a tent at a dude ranch in Stanley Basin. The next day we left the tent all set up while riding five saddle horses, one for each of us, and accompanied by a ranch hand to take care of them. We were back in our tent that night without having to unpack or repack a darn thing!
Mom and Dad’s notes say we went from Hell Roaring Lake to Imogene Lake. About all I remember was the horse ride on the way back to the ranch.
I had gotten used to being on a horse from our previous trips, when one saddle horse had joined the two pack horses. Its job was to carry tired kids. I had made my peace with knowing these animals are much bigger, much stronger, and much smarter than I am. But always before the horse had moved at the pace of Mom and Dad walking the trail, leading the way.
This time the horse under me was fine with going away from the ranch at the pace set by the buckaroo. It also joined the string of walking horses when we started back. But as we got closer to the ranch the string of horses started stretching out.
Just a bit at first. They knew not to just bust out and get home. But soon the plodding along was getting darned close to an eager walk.
Soon my sisters and I were being carried along at a comfortable clip, it being obvious there would be no more stopping for sightseeing.
Then it became obvious the critters were beginning to dare one another to be the first to up the ante, snorting and bunching up until simultaneously the three horses broke into trots.
I had never been on a trotting horse before and instantly I was atop a frighteningly uncomfortable ride! My butt was being pounded up and down on a hard saddle once a second or so. With each bounce I worked to come back square in the saddle and not be thrown off to the side. Every time I landed back in the saddle it was a different angle and I discovered again and again just how little padding there was on my butt bones. As a twelve year old guy I was having serious visions of the consequences of landing too far forward and catching the saddle horn instead of the saddle. All this while being way too far off the ground and the ground being full of rocks and the horse not giving one twit about my frantic, serious yanks on the reigns and my demanding whoas being delivered in a voice just short of screaming.
Actually, I think she was enjoying getting me riled up.
Then the most amazing thing happened. Our three horses let loose into full gallops.
The jarring butt beatings from the saddle stopped. In their place were smooth rocking shifts from the front to the back of the saddle and then back the other way. There was no danger of being bounced off!
The ground was flying by but it was sure-footed and secure. I let the reigns hang loose and enjoyed that horse knowing what it was doing! And I could tell she was enjoying stretching out and being a horse.
That was the first and last time I rode a galloping horse. I remember it fondly.
If I ever do get back on a horse I’m going to let it know walking and galloping are fine with me. But NO TROTTING AND I MEAN IT!
It won’t care.
Writing this up, I was told you stand in the stirrups when a horse trots. Sure makes sense to me and my gonads!