Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Always Ask the Steed's Name

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Always Ask the Steed's Name

Article excerpt

There are few images as appealing to the American mind as the cowboy on horseback. I even know people who own a horse - but never ride it - because they derive satisfaction from leaning over a split rail fence and imagining a life in the saddle.

Even I, the inveterate Easterner, recall all those Saturday mornings of my vintage-'60s New Jersey childhood, watching Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, and the Lone Ranger on television. All of them cut heroic profiles as, mounted on their trusty steeds, they leaned into the wind, speeding after bad guys.

Is it any wonder that the 1950s and '60s were the heyday of cowboy and Indian outfits and paraphernalia? I know that I had mine: a white 10-gallon hat, boots, and matching "six-shooters."

But back to horses. It wasn't until I was in my late 20s that I had my first opportunity to ride, really ride, an adult horse. I was visiting friends in Iceland at the time. They had a farm near the north coast and raised the stocky Icelandic breed.

One evening, with the midnight sun still shining brightly above the horizon, the family patriarch asked if I knew how to ride. Instantly, my sense of the saddle shivered within me, and I answered, "Are you kidding? I'm an American!"

Convinced by my confidence, my host went into the barn and returned a few moments later with a sleek black stallion that had fire in his eyes. My first thought was to approach him and stroke his neck, but when I did, he bucked and whinnied, never taking his defiant gaze from me. But I had already announced my expertise, and the farmer and three of his children were watching. What could I do? I gulped, girded myself, and mounted the beast.

My host hung onto the bridle as the animal sidled and pawed the ground. As for me, I felt that I was sitting atop a large, willful machine. And the distance to the ground suddenly seemed vast.

"OK?" asked my host. I nodded and, without ceremony, he whacked the bronco on the flank, and I was off like a shot. The horse immediately got my number, and it read "Inexperienced." He leapt, galloped, and bucked.

I had to drop the reins and throw my arms around his neck, trusting myself to the belief that the animal probably wouldn't do anything to hurt himself. …

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