Rawhide on My Backside


As I write this, my butt is blistered, literally. That stinging punishment my parents and teachers always threatened has now been delivered some 40 years later. Only it wasn’t misbehavior that brought on the pain, — it was my own choice. In fact, I paid for the privilege.

In making up my list of goals for 2015 – and in keeping with my commitment to spend every weekend outdoors – I decided this would be the year to really learn about horses and horseback riding. I’ve ridden before, but not enough to ever really get comfortable with it.

That’s going to change this year . . . just as soon as my rear end heals.

For some background, my brothers all grew up with horses and learned to ride at an early age. According to Steve, some of the horses they owned had personality quirks that took an extra level of skill to mount and ride.

One in particular required two people with lassos to rope and drag out of the corral. The horse would kick and bite, so the idea was to lash him tight against a tree to keep his mouth out of play. With that done, one person would put his saddle on, being careful to avoid being kicked in the process.

They would then loosen the rope. When he tried to bite, they would take that opportunity to slip the bit in his mouth.

“After you got through all that, he was a great horse to ride,” Steve said.

Unfortunately, I missed out on all that fun. By the time I came along, my parents were out of the horse business and I grew up with only a bicycle to provide traumatic injuries. So I’ve always felt a little deprived.

Shortly before Christmas, however, I found out that one of my wife’s friends owns horses and offers trail rides as a side business. Sandy offered to teach me all the lessons I missed out on during my horseless childhood.

The first ride was a lot of fun. We explored Blackwater River State Forest, riding through the beautiful piney hills. Sandy taught me the basics along with a lot of subtle lessons about keeping the horse calm and under control, navigating through tight spots and watching for hazards along the trail.

On our second ride, we traveled a good bit father and moved a good bit faster. That’s when I learned what the “cantle” of a saddle is. That wasn’t really part of the lesson, but I had to look it up so that I could explain exactly what caused the horseshoe-shaped scar above my tailbone.  As best I can tell, the horse’s gait, my jeans and the cantle combined to create enough friction to leave a permanent mark on my rear end.

The worst part was that I only discovered it in the shower when the soap and hot water made it feel like a blowtorch on my backside. Mary heard my yelp of pain and came in to see what was wrong.

After what I would consider an undue amount of laughter, she said, “It looks like somebody branded you.” And then, with her normal flair for the obvious, “That must hurt!”

Sandy told me that she wouldn’t be available for a riding lesson this weekend. Needless to say, I wasn’t upset since it spared me the embarrassment of either calling to cancel – or hitting the trail with a soft pillow attached to the saddle.

They say if you’re thrown from a horse, it’s good to get right back on. I haven’t heard what you do with third-degree saddle sores.

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