It still might be awkward if you invite a horse

RodeoLiving where we do, it’s odd that I’ve been to so few rodeos.

I remember going to one as a kid. I cried because of the calves being thrown around and because a rodeo clown made fun of an old, swaybacked horse. I guess I was kind of a bummer date.

But I tried it again, when we were camping near Joseph, Oregon. By that time I had kids of my own, who were still really small. The weather was sweltering, and the beer was refreshing, and I was very thirsty.

Later, Mike politely complied when I requested he pull off the highway so I could yell at my shoes. That was followed by the mother of all hangovers, and a hot, sticky day camping with a toddler in training pants and a baby in diapers.

Even though we live in a city, this is ranching country, which means horse country. I grew up repeatedly asking my parents if we could keep a pony in the yard. I had posters of horses plastered up all over my room, and model horses and books about horses. My Barbie had a horse, but I never had a horse.

Once a woman babysitting us promised to take us riding with her daughter, but when we showed up, she pointed out that our shorts and flip flops weren’t appropriate attire. Instead, we would just have to watch her daughter parading around the corral a few times, gloating at us, while we sat and I fanaticized about cutting all the hair off every single baby doll in her cluttered bedroom.

It wasn’t until I was grown up and married to someone a little closer to the horse scene that I suspected I might not be all that into horses if I ever got to know one.

Mike put me on a horse, at my request. The most accessible horse at that time was Ed, who was a 30 year-old, retired work animal belonging to my father in-law. Ed didn’t appreciate my riding him and regularly tried to scrape me off on the nearest tree branch. He didn’t understand the old maxim about horses forming instant connections with pretty, young women with romantic horse notions but no horse experience.

Even when I politely explained it to him, Ed didn’t get it. We never connected.

Ed was not my last horse experience. Once I was hired to raise money for a camp for kids with diabetes. The group running the camp was big into horses and the event they wanted was a pledged horseback trail ride.

In the weeks leading up to the ride, we staged promotions, including one early morning live broadcast where everyone rode horses around in a circle while the weatherman gave the forecast.

Just for the photo op, someone hoisted me onto a gigantic animal named Worf, adjusted the stirrups so they were almost short enough for my legs, and then handed me the rope thingies… er, reins… whatever. I sat there for a second with one rein in each hand before the guy sighed, grabbed horse by the face and led me around like I was child on a pony in a carnival.

…Only the pony in question spoke Klingonese, and the child was actually a humiliated, and slightly petrified almost forty-year old.

Later we all laughed uproariously when someone remarked “Hey Bill, I saw your horse on the weather this morning. Who’s kid you put on him?”

So my girlhood dream of being some kind of horse lady has gone the way of my Barbie collection and dog-eared copy of Black Beauty.

I no longer remotely hanker for a horse of my own, or even ever to get on one again. And I’m super not big into rodeos, either, at which presumably there are many horse enthusiasts.

This week, one of our former exchange students is back in town for a visit. As horses are kind of her thing, she suggested we go to the rodeo.

Okay. It’s kind of an iconic, Western thing. I could be a good sport, even if it meant having to drink Bud Light and listen to country music for a couple hours.

I didn’t have any Wrangler jeans to wear, though, and even if I did, it was once again Gobi Desert hot around here, and denim was definitely not going to be part of my ensemble.

While the rodeo activities and all the evidence of man’s connection with his horsey friends didn’t awaken any latent horse longing in me, I actually had a pretty good time. 

I didn’t even cry over the calf roping event. I guess I have a different perspective at this point in my life.

I got a great eyeful of cute cowboys, all dressed in pink as a salute to breast cancer research. So that was a bonus.

The best part is, there were a full 10 rows of bleachers between us and the nearest hoofed animal, so there was no awkward “we’re not all that into each other” moment with any horse.

… You know, like when you and a horse are invited to the same party, and someone’s, like, dude, who why do we have to hang out at this end of the room the whole night?

… And then you have to explain that some doofus forgot you were coming and invited the damn horse. I mean, that even sounds petty and immature. Horses are going to go to parties. You can’t just avoid horses all your life. Jeez. Grow up.

Obviously, I kid. I’m actually just fine if someone invites me to a party where there are going to be horses. I can be totally chill.

But I’m still not wearing Wranglers.

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If you don’t invite me to your horse party, I’ll be okay, but a vote would be nice. Thanks.

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