We didn’t have anything planned for Sunday, so by 2 p.m. we were laying around like slugs and feeling restless. After a quick spin on the internet, we drove 20 minutes to the nearest horse stables for an hour-long ride.
We didn’t tell the boys what we were doing until we parked in front of the pasture. (The fact that Chuck and I were both wearing boots wasn’t a clue either.) When we finally announced, “We’re going horseback riding!” there was a look of pure childhood excitement across their faces. I knew Jeremy would especially be thrilled.
After a brief introduction and lesson on steering our horses, we saddled up and began the four-mile ride through a Smoky Mountain valley.
Jackson and I paired up on a strong horse named Champ, while Jeremy rode a smaller mare named Savannah. We mistakenly thought Savannah was a shy colt based on her size, but the guide told us Savannah had always been small and unable to pack on weight. She was nearing 23 years old and was the perfect horse for a child to ride due to her gentleness and size. Jeremy was proud to ride on his own, albeit led by the guide.
This photo was taken at Jeremy and Savannah’s introduction, when I incorrectly announced, “What a sweet little colt!”
Chuck rode Tonto, a frisky mare who all but buried her face in Champ’s behind, a sign that she clearly wanted to walk on her own path and at her own pace. Every time I turned around, Chuck was almost within an arm’s reach and he’d (again) pull back on her reins to give Champ, Jackson and me some space.
The countryside was sprinkled fluffy yellow buttercups, and every newly grown leaf was bright lime green. Our guide pointed out a gray-black snake sunning itself on a rock, and I didn’t scream out loud but only in my head.
One childhood memory that came flooding back almost immediately was when my family went horseback riding at Pipestem in West Virginia. I rode with my mother because I wasn’t old enough to ride alone. The first half of the ride was good, but the second half left me sore and chaffed in my in-between parts. I was careful to check and re-check with Jackson to make sure I wasn’t doing the same to him. Am I squishing your business? I’d ask. He mostly said no, but a few times he’d grunt and say, “Yes, my business hurts,” and he’d lift his legs in an effort to reconfigure himself. I’d wiggled my bum back in the saddle and he’d say, “That’s better” with a sigh of relief.
If you and I didn’t know each other when I got married, then you probably don’t know that I wore white cowgirl boots under my dress. Here we sit, 11 and a half years later, and I haven’t worn them since. That is, until yesterday.
Near the end of the ride, Jeremy said aloud to no one in particular, “I could do this all day.” I knew he meant it. He’s had a heart for animals and the outdoors since toddlerhood, and I’m happy to nurture it.
“You should be a zoologist, Jeremy,” I’ll tell him. When he’s done playing professional football, he said he might consider it.