It was someone's bright idea on a recent holiday to sign up for one of those pony treks.
Let me start off by saying that horses are strange creatures and I am not at all comfortable in their presence. Which of course they sense straight away, and make a beeline for that wussy female that doesn't know which way is up. My total knowledge of the equus can be written in one sentence. They have big teeth and a leg in each corner. Am I right, or am I right?
My husband was in a hotel lobby alone one afternoon and picked up one of those colourful brochures. (Better than picking up a call-girl I guess.) The brochure (not the call-girl, 'cos I didn't see her) was aimed at the passing tourists (probably just like the call-girl).
"Ride into the legendary mountain west and experience the connection between horse and rider as it was in the past, and share in the legacy of the cowboy" (Are we sure I'm still not talking about some call-girl? OK, enough with the lady of the night, she's not important - not to this story anyway.)
"Step into a time and place where the "Spririt of the West" lives on .... the brochure beckoned.
My dear husband then decided we should all do this - a one-off - good family time, good for the soul. Initially he thought an all-day ride would be great fun, until I pointed out that my backside would probably barely last an hour in a saddle. I know my bum, you see. Somehow we compromised on a two and half hour trek and booked it up for the next morning.
Waking at an very uncivilised hour, we dug out from the suitcase the one pair of jeans each of us had brought 'just in case'. The 'just in case' I had in mind was a torrential downpour, or some July snow (quite feasible, believe me) - not a 'just in case we decide to clamber onto the back of a tall animal'. We set off for base camp, which was about a 20 minute drive from Waterton National Park [www.mountainmeadowtrailrides.com] and then duly signed on the waiver dotted line and were introduced to our horses.
I think each member of the family has physically sat on horses twice in their lives, but at varying distances in their history. My experience of a horse is waaaaaayyy back in time. Not so good then, still imprinted on my brain. Fear, I think they call it.
We were all sized up for suitable horse - mine was called "Wrangler". An ominous start, don't you think?
To cut a two and a half hour trek story short, the girls absolutely loved it. They were trotting and kicking and steering the horses, and I never realised just how much they would enjoy this. They even had the sneaky idea of trying to barter their dance lessons (already booked and paid for in September) into horse riding lessons instead. Not gonna happen.
Within half an hour I was getting uncomfortable. My horse would walk the slowest of the pack, bimbling along in his own sweet time, then the rancher-rider-leader girlie would come along and 'encourage' him to go faster. Which meant trotting. Let's just say my bum and the saddle became well acquainted. Bang, slap, owwww, bang, slap, owwww. It's obvious by now that I do not know how to ride. I tried to do the whole 'stand up in the stirrups' bit and bounce in a rhythm in keeping with saving one's arse from a whooping, but it was not pretty.
We were wandering through pretty countryside with beautiful mountains in the background and all I could think about was how the hell am I going to walk back to the car?
The last 45 minutes was agony. My bum was sore, but in fact it was my left knee that objected the most. It just locked at a silly angle in the stirrup and I had no strength in it at all.
The final indignity came at the end when I told my husband - note, I told my husband - that he would have to catch me as I slid off said horse in a none-too-stylish, locked-knee, legs-akimbo heap. I wasn't far wrong, and I'm so glad no-one had the video camera going at this point.
I literally could not unlock my knee for about two minutes, so I stood there, stooped over, smiling through gritted teeth - yes, I'm absolutely fine, wonderful morning, lovely - until my leg would co-operate and move.
And yes, predictably, I did do my John Wayne impression as I limped back to the car.