Written By: Joel Colby
“Raymond is a good horse, but you have to let him know who’s boss!” Bill said as he led the palomino American quarter horse from the barn.
My large family had gathered at my sister and brother-in law’s rural home to celebrate my return from Navy boot camp. It was late spring, and for the occasion, I wore my new bright white Navy uniform complete with sailor hat. Bill, my brother-inlaw, had purchased Raymond a month prior and was eager to introduce him to the family.
“Anyone want to ride?” Bill asked as he paraded the big animal in front of the admiring group.
“Sure,” I said. “I would like to take him out.”
“Do you know how to ride?” asked Bill.
“Of course,” I confidently replied. I didn’t watch all those cowboy movies for nothing. I know you give a little kick to start, pull on the right side of the reins to turn right and the left for left. What could be so difficult? Bill held Raymond steady as I swung myself into the saddle.
Bill pointed to the a path that led over the hill behind the house and said, “That’s an easy trail. When you get to the fork, go right. It leads around the woods and back to the house.”
“Will do,” I replied as I sat high over the admiring group.
I gave Raymond a little kick and clucked at him as I had seen done in the movies, and he walked toward the path.
“Remember, let him know who’s boss!” Bill yelled as we started climbing the small hill.
It was a warm late spring day, and I felt on top of the world as we reached the summit of the hill. The path wasn’t steep, but steep enough that Raymond was carefully walking down. As we approached the fork, I gently tugged on the reins in my right hand. Ray paid no attention and continued walking forward, so I pulled harder moving his head to the right. That just annoyed the big horse. Ray jerked his head back pulling the reins from my grasp. He then took the left fork and starting running. All I could do was fall forward and try hang on. I was totally out of the saddle with my arms wrapped tightly around the big neck when Ray came to an abrupt halt at a small stream. I fell but was fortunate enough to land on my feet at the edge of the water. Ray gave me a disgusted look then proceeded to drink deeply.
Grateful that I wouldn’t have to explain wet clothes to the family, I managed to get hold of the reins while Raymond was drinking. I edged them over his big head and tried to lead him from the stream. However, Ray hadn’t finished his drink, and he jerked the reins from me and calmly lowered his head to the water.
“I’m the boss!” I said as I grabbed the reins, and firmly pulled him from the stream. ” I am going to get back in the saddle, and ride you home.”
But Ray had other ideas, and as I put my foot in the stirrup, he moved leaving me struggling to stay on my feet. I admonished Ray and tried again – same result. I begged him to stand still and tried a third time, but again he moved.
“So that’s the way its gonna be,” I said as I pulled the reins back over his head. “I will lead you then. ” I took the reins, walked forward, and Ray followed.
I couldn’t lead the horse back to house and watching family. I led Raymond beside a stand of trees so he could not move away from my attempt to mount. And with a little scraping of my right leg, I made it back into the saddle. Although he seemed a little annoyed, Ray walked the path and took the turn back toward the house. He walked up the hill and started down toward the house, then started running. I pulled back on the reins and yelled at him to stop, but he jerked his head forward pulling the reins from my hands. All I could do was hang on.
Raymond ran toward a plot that Bill had tilled for a garden. Recent rains had turned the soil to mud. Ray ran into the middle of the muddy mess and stopped with me hanging on for dear life. My family gathered around the garden.
“Don’t let him get his head down!” someone yelled. I grappled for the reins and tried to understand. Ray’s head went down, and I went up. I don’t know what happened, but I know it happened quickly. I was face down in the mud directly in front of Raymond. I pulled myself up to my knees, and Raymond decided to stomp me. But I was too quick for him and crawled through the mud, with Ray following close behind. Bill grabbed the reins and pulled Raymond away from my scrambling body.
“Are you OK?” my sister yelled trying to be heard over the laughter.
“I’m fine. It was a fun ride. Next time I won’t try that trick dismount though.” My reply was met by laughter from my amused family. My white uniform was caked with mud – ruined beyond salvation. My hat was missing.
After a shower I changed into Bill’s clothes that were too large for me, but available. My shoes were muddy, so I wore a pair of Bill’s slippers. My shoe size is 9, Bill’s 12. The incident and outfit will be a source of amusement long into the future.
Raymond and I have come to an understanding. I don’t try to ride him, and he doesn’t try to stomp me. When I visit, I take him an apple. He eats the apple and smiles. I am certain he inwardly chuckles when he hears, “Show him who’s boss!” He knows.