Last week I wasn’t sure what my next feat would be. Part of the fun of this adventure is that some activities are planned well in advance, while others can just happen in the moment. This week’s feat fell somewhere in the middle.
My friend Annamarie and I turned 50 within a month of each other (I am younger by 21 days). At an age when having more ‘stuff’ isn’t as appealing as accumulating experiences, we both decided that part of our celebration of the half century mark would be enjoying a variety of activities, some of which we had in common. I have never been horseback riding, so that was one for me; Annamarie wanted to take a ride from Queenston Heights to Niagara-On-The-Lake. While we couldn’t quite score the location, she did find a lovely place in Port Colborne called HorsePlay Niagara that offered trail riding through the woods and along the Fort Erie beach and invited me to join her as a birthday present.
Half the adventure was getting there; the only thing potentially worse than having me as the driver is assigning me with the role of navigator. Thankfully, my friend is both patient and has a great sense of humour, and so we arrived at our destination still smiling, despite my helpful directions (“I think that was where we were supposed to turn”).
We signed our waivers, reviewed the “do not’s” (which included not putting on makeup while riding – apparently a real-life example from a previous ride) and picked out our riding helmets.
I love animals, but I have never ridden a horse before, so I was equally nervous and excited about how I would find the experience. There were five others in the group and we were all lined up and assigned our animal partners based on our “horse sense”. My friend and one of the men had some riding experience, but the rest of us were newbies. Lucky for me the guide knew just the horse for me and I was led to a lovely chestnut coloured beauty named Pal. He let me climb the step stool and onto his back, standing quietly in place, moving only to swipe at the flies buzzing around him. I introduced myself and rubbed Pal’s neck. When we were lined up to go out on the trail, Pal fell into step behind Annamarie’s horse, Mike.
We followed the trail guide, Ashley, over fields, through woods, around stiles, and across streets. While my friend’s mount made numerous attempts to stop and graze along the way, my Pal was to horseback riding what Google is to cars: he knew every turn, each stop, and every trot, without need of even a twitch of the rein by me.
I was so appreciative of his skill that I kept patting his neck and telling him what a good horse he was, especially when I surprisingly remained on his back at the end of each attempt at trotting. Anyone who thinks that horseback riding is not a physical activity is wrong, and probably knows how to ride decidedly better than I do. Our guide told us it was best to stand in the stirrups and move with the horse, but I didn’t manage this very well. Each time Pal sped up, I turned into some kind of cartoon character bobbing up and down wildly, holding on for dear life. My Pal didn’t let me down, though, and I was grateful for his skill and my luck at having him.
The highlight for me was riding along the beach, and taking the horses out into the lake. It was a hot, sunny day and there is something about the view from high up on my gentle giant that made the adventure just a little surreal. Returning to the stable area, I gave Pal a pat on the neck and a heartfelt thank you before de-horsing. I was a little wobbly getting my land legs back, but beaming from the incredible adventure.
I’m still enjoying the memories (and some aches and pains) as I write about my latest feat, made better by having my friend Annamarie and my Pal along for the ride. And, now I totally understand why John Wayne walked that way.
Next up: Building a playground.