I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. –Revelation 6:8
I picture us sitting on the veranda sipping whatever passes for lemonade in Chile. We are planning a peaceful day at the Walbaums’ farm an hour west of Santiago. Then Paul asks a question that changes the picture, “Would you like to go horseback riding?”
“Sure,” we say without thinking, before Paul explains, “In the spring”—which has just arrived in Chile—“the horses are not as calm.”
I am not someone about whom others think, “I bet he rides horses.” My favorite horse movie is the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races. I root against the Dallas Cowboys. I enjoy playing horse only when it involves a basketball.
I try to get in the mood by singing Gene Autry’s Back in the Saddle Again until I realize Gene has fallen off his horse. I switch to the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses, also a questionable choice.
I last rode a horse when I was twelve. My grandfather told everyone Old Lady was 60, which we assumed meant horse years, but now I think she might have been 60. When she really got moving Old Lady could go two or three miles an hour. It was like riding a bag of concrete.
Since it’s been a while since I rode a thousand pound animal, I decide to prepare. I consider watching Blazing Saddles, but go with “How to Ride a Horse” on YouTube. I learn that sitting up straight is a big deal, as is forming a straight line from my elbow to the horse’s mouth, leaning forward going uphill, and communicating with my heels. This is helpful information, but the “emergency dismount” looks like jumping from a speeding car.
I do not want a horse named Tornado. A cool horse racing name like maythehorsebewithu sounds appealing, but Sausage Roll would be less likely to cause injury.
Horses are mentioned 189 times in the Bible—a lot compared to preachers (8), deacons (8) and pastors (1).
In Job 39:19, God asks, “Do you give the horse its might? Do you clothe its neck with mane?” (The answer is no.)
In 1 Kings 22:4, Jehoshaphat says, “I am as you are; my people are your people, my horses are your horses.” (This should be read at weddings.)
In Revelation 19, Christ rides a white horse out of heaven. This is yet another way I am not good at following Christ.
Paul gives me Juanito, who I call Juan Grande, Secretariat, and Pegasus when no one else can hear.
Carol’s horse, “the white one,” doesn’t have the ring that “Black Beauty” does, but she gets along fine with her horse with no name (though Carol was secretly hoping for a unicorn).
I think about climbing on when no one is looking, but realize as I stand beside Little John that my attempts to reach the saddle without help will end badly.
As the real cowboy adjusts the stirrups to fit my short legs, another rider comments, “That poor horse.” She is, I want to believe, expressing concern about the tightness of the saddle, but it sounds like a comment on my weight.
I am instructed not to hold the reins like the woman in the video, and am asked, “Why are you keeping your arms straight?” Everything in the video is now suspect, except that the how to ride a horse lady’s helmet would prevent brain damage and the boater I am wearing will not.
My one trick pony’s trick is to not worry about his rider’s desires. What I try to communicate with my heels is “I do not want to fall off.” I cannot remember the Spanish word for “Whoa.”
I channel the horse whisperer to work out a deal with Juanito. He can go wherever he chooses if he does not throw me to the ground.
I feel comfortable until we go up a hill (Juanito speeds up as I forget to lean forward), down (Juanito doesn’t care for down), or along the embankment of a reservoir (which is narrow enough to make me think about Pharaoh’s horses in the Red Sea).
When I get off my horse it looks like an emergency dismount. Apparently I am supposed to take my foot out of the stirrup first.
When my feet are back on solid ground, I almost shout “Beer for My Horses!” but I’m not sure how big Toby Keith is in South America.
I walk fine the next day, but when I sit down I remember that I have ridden a horse.
Psalm 20:7 warns, “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord.”
I am in no danger of taking pride in horses.