A year or so after my first unplanned dismount from Riley, I was invited to ride my mom’s coworker’s daughter’s horse.
Elsie, the coworker, had a farmette just a few miles west of our town where her family raised Rottweilers and happened to have a brown and white horse named Tanya. The striking paint lived in their three-stall barn that matched their big brown house.
I was told to ride Tanya any time I wanted to, which of course was every waking moment. In reality I think I only got to ride the mare a half dozen times.
Riding Tanya was really something because this family had lots of land which meant room to roam. Once I helped groom and tack up Tanya, I was on my own and left to ride how and where I pleased.
The most memorable ride of the Tanya era occurred when my older teenage sister, Renee, helped me tack up one day. She put the Western saddle on the sweet horse. Renee had taken horsemanship at Camp Timber-Lee in Wisconsin, but I think she missed out on the finer points of tacking up. She was more into makeup, pom poms and boys. Maybe she tuned out on the crucial saddling safety info from summer camp.
There’s a real knack to tightening a Western cinch that requires lots of pulling and then a specific kind of knot, somewhat like the kind of knot used for a man’s tie. To make matters even more challenging, some horses tend to puff up their bellies while getting cinched up. When the person putting on the saddle is done monkeying with the girth, the horse will then unpuff and the saddle will fit nice and loose. This is not ideal. Maybe for the horse, but definitely not for the rider.
About two minutes into my happy ride on Tanya as I was imagining I was a cowgirl, I found myself hanging upside down under the mare’s belly like a bat in a cave. I was still seated in the saddle, but instead of having a view of the horse’s mane and ears, I was looking between her front legs and hooves. I don’t recommend this maneuver.
I slid my feet out of the stirrups and plopped down in a tangle on the lawn, under the horse. I was a little stunned, but I wasn’t hurt. I got up, brushed myself off, and led Tanya, saddle draped beneath her, back to the barn. The horse didn’t flinch.
Elsie’s daughter was home and knew the trick to tightening a cinch and tying the Western knot. She put the saddle back on–the right way. I did what every horse person knows you must do when you fall off a horse: I got back in the saddle and rode away, but not without first sneering at my sister.