And I’m not talking about the kind you use in CPR class either. In my case the book didn’t save a life, it saved me from a few broken bones. How you ask? No, I didn’t land on it, I didn’t use it to plug up a potentially fatal gas leak.
I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. We had one when I was five, but the salt lick wasn’t big enough for me to stand on and get on its back. And I remember it getting out a lot and my mom driving us kids through the desert looking for the runaway pony. We’d always find it and then we’d drive back really slow with my mom’s arm hanging out the window, the horse attached to the lead rope in her hand.
Fast forward 9 years and I’ve begun my devouring of anything with the name Walter Farley on it. I think by that point, I’d read every Black Stallion and Island Stallion book and was in the process of collecting them. Next to that sat Misty of Chincoteague and Stormy, Misty’s Foal by Marguerite Henry. You can read their real life story here.
I remember reading The Black Stallion books and memorizing how Alec learned how to ride the Black. They were on the desert island and I remember Alec having to ride him bareback. Not an easy feat if you’re a novice rider.
I can hear you asking, how did the Black and Alec save her from broken bones? I guess it was more Walter Farley than Alec that saved me a trip to the hospital. We moved to Northern California my 8th grade year and one of the girls I became friends with in class had several horses. I think it was during Christmas break when I spent the night at her house. We were going riding the next morning and I was so excited! I don’t know if I’d ever ridden anything other than a pony up until then. This was a full size HORSE. I was nervous, I won’t lie. Although I think I did tell a little white lie and say I’d ridden more than I actually had.
Well, she put bare back pads on both horses and we took off. What’s a bare back pad? Basically a thick blanket with stirrups and a cinch. Not much to hang on to for comfort (safety) beyond the reins and a chunk of mane. I think we rode for almost an hour and I was very proud of myself. See, this is where The Black Stallion books kept me upright. The entire time I was on top of that horse, different passages of the books kept flitting through my mind. Pressure with the knees will make them go faster, hang on with the thighs. Only sit back if you want them to stop or go backwards. Lean forward to run – no, don’t do that! Gently lay reins to the side you want them to turn, don’t saw on their mouths with the bit, hold the reins loose, looped over each other in your hand. okay, I’ve got this.
Until the horse saw home that is. We went from a lope to a trot in no time flat. Well, I’d never trotted before and all I remember is slowly sliding to the side.
Somehow, I got my right foot out of the stirrup and landed on the ground, on both feet. Thankfully the horse stopped once it lost its rider and we ended up walking back to the barn. My legs were shaking the entire time!
Thanks to reading, no devouring, those books, I was not only able to stay on the horse, but also know what the different pieces of tack were when we first started. Walter Farley’s attention to detail and easy descriptions helped everything make sense to me. I’ve ridden quite a few times since then and had a few other memorable occurrences. And I will always thank Walter Farley for keeping me in the saddle. That and an innate ability to land on both feet when needed.