She only lasted 4 lessons.
Now, to begin with, you have to picture Blinky (yes, her real name). She was about 10 years old, short, round, and not what you might call intellectually inclined. But, she was sweet, and both she and her mother truly wanted her to learn to ride a horse. And this is where I enter the story, as her riding instructor.
You also have to understand the fine mechanics of saddling a horse. First of all, Blinky rode Western,
which normally involves the type of saddle that most people picture—you know, the bulky, leather saddle, with a saddle horn, that all cowboys use. But, for our beginning riders, we had a facsimile of these types of saddles, mostly made of fiberglass, with wooden stirrups, and a sheep-skin-like covering on the seat. They were inexpensive, served their purpose well, and were light enough for even children to lift.
But, you also have to understand saddling a horse from the horse’s point of view. No horse really wants to be cinched into a saddle, so they all have a tendency to puff out their stomachs as you try to saddle them, filling their stomachs with as much air as possible, so that they can later let out the air and have a much looser cinch. To avoid having your saddle slide off, therefore, you have to tighten the cinch, walk the horse around a bit and then give it a gentle pop in the stomach with one knee, to force it to let out the air. Then you tighten the cinch like hell.
Well, at this point, we come to Blinky’s first lesson. I taught her to saddle her horse, double-checking it myself, of course, and then taught her to mount. I walked her horse out to the arena and had her begin to walk the horse around the big circle, giving all the proper directions the entire way. But, suddenly, Blinky—saddle and all—began to slide down the side of the horse. Just like the second hand on a clock. Tick, tock, tick, tock,
she slid until she was hanging underneath the horse, completely upside down, screaming only slightly louder than her mother was screaming from the sidelines. It was not a pretty picture and it was damn near impossible to get this chubby little girl out from under the belly of a very satisfied-looking horse.
Okay, this was one thing. It happened occasionally and we repositioned the saddle and went on. But, Blinky was a complete professional when it came to hanging from the underside of a horse. Each future lesson had precisely the same results. I would cinch up the saddle tight enough to cause the horse discomfort and yet, tick, tock, tick, tock. Blinky was hanging under the horse screaming, with her mother screaming louder still. To this day, I cannot fathom why it happened.
After about 4 lessons, both Blinky and her mother gave up—to my great relief. I was having more and more trouble calming her mother down and prying the screaming child loose from an upside-down saddle. But, you know, I still laugh every time I think about her. So, I’m quite sure, did the horse—until its dying day.