I bought a Groupon to go horseback riding a couple of months ago. It was half-price for 2 people. Good deal! And it was in a National Park, so I figured the scenery would be spectacular here in Tucson. I’ve been trying to take my nephew riding for his first time, but he has been a little afraid of hoppin’ on the saddle.
Ah, it’s nothing! You’ll have a blast! I have kept telling him for the past 2 years, trying to persuade him to let me take him.
Finally, he was ready.
And although I am no pro, I’ve ridden Western many times, in many countries, up and down many mountains and trails. Forget English…no knob to hold on to. I just love sitting back in my big ol’ comfortable Western saddle. It’s like a Cadillac.
While reserving our spot via telephone, through this Groupon deal, I asked them if we could come down first, so my 12-year-old nephew could make sure he was really ready. At first this outfit said:
“Sure, bring him down, sign in with your Groupon, and if he doesn’t want to go, that’s fine.”
I said, “Umm, well, does that mean I will eat my Groupon?”
“Well, can’t I let him see first if he feels comfortable, and then commit?”
“Uhh, okay, I guess we can do that.”
So we did. We drove about 45 minutes out of town, paid 5 bucks to enter the park, and my nephew was all good after examining the horse, with the assistance of a nice lady, who explained how to hold the reins and steer. “These are very docile animals. You’ll be fine!”
I had him wear a helmet. But he was ready!! How exciting!! I get to share the experience of the thrill of a first ride! Camera in hand.
Our guide was 45 minutes late, and finally showed up with no apology or explanation from any of the staff. And he rushed us on the horses.
My nephew was first, and the guide was less than cordial. “Get on there. No, not like a bike! That way.”
And before ya knew it, he was on, and was all smiles. So was I. So, I guess the guide’s strategy worked.
Now, it’s pretty hot and dry in the desert, so we brought along water for the 90 minute ride. I always bring water. Usually in a metal water bottle, and there is either a satchel, or I wear a pack. I didnt’ have that with me.
One of the other guides, just back from her ride, took what appeared to be a thin leather rope, like the thickness of a shoelace, and quickly strung our plastic water bottles to the saddle horn…Okay.
Never saw it done like that, but I assume they know what they are doing.
Ten minutes into the ride, suddenly, the water bottle unleashes from the string, and drops, scares the shit out of my horse, who proceeds to buck.
My eyeballs popped, I tried to hold on, but there was a tree on my left side, I leaned right, still holding on, but my left leg had come out of the stirrup after the first jolt, and he continued bucking.
I couldn’t hold on any longer, completely off-balance, and said to myself, “Oh shit, I’m going down.” Then out loud, as I was falling, I said not to myself, “Fuck!”
Instinctively, I rolled in a ball to my right, so when I landed I was no longer facing forward, my head was down at the back of the horse, feet front, I quickly looked up at the hoof, and rolled away, trying to protect my head, face, and body, and then got up. First time ever thrown off a horse for me….and hopefully the last.
I brushed myself off, and was AMAZED. I managed to not land on a single cactus or rock! I. was. okay! I mean, I felt a bit banged up, and my shoulder had hit my sunglasses into the bridge of my nose on impact, but no broken bones, head trauma, and most importantly, no prickers lodged in me! There was a bunch of cactus, but miraculously, not where I landed!!
My nephew just sat on his horse, and didn’t panic. The guide came back, genuinely concerned, and asked if I was okay and could I get back up?
I said, “I think so.”
And I did. First thing I said, “Take that water bottle off of my nephew’s horse.”
The guide called the ranch and let them know what had happened. And it was clear that the water bottle was not properly, securely tied to the horse. I had not yet taken a sip when it happened close to the beginning of the ride. So I was a bit pissed off that this could have been avoided.
We finished the ride, and I felt okay. However, for the remainder of the trail, I spent thinking in horror, if that had been my nephew, I would have wanted to die. But he managed to really enjoy his ride, regardless. He was a natural. I was so proud of him.
In between trying not to imagine it happening to my little nephew, grateful that it was me, I was also grateful, and mostly astonished that I was fairly unscathed! What were the chances that I didn’t fall on any cactus or rocks? Or, what if I had even busted a finger? This morning my middle finger is a bit swollen on my right hand, and my neck is stiff, but nothing major. I have shows next week! I wouldn’t have been able to play my guitar. And my camera, which was strapped around my neck, was also fine! A freakin’ miracle!
When we got back, I was kind of expecting someone from the staff to be there to greet me, and perhaps…apologize. I realize shit happens when there are animals, and you take that risk, but this was human error. And it warrants a little compensation, even if it’s just an apology.
Nothing. No one there. I figured they’d at least offer a free ride for the future. (Although I would not go back there. Actually, not only because of the unprofessionalism, but also because there were high tension wires, which I refer to as eyesores when pretending I’m a cowboy.)
I still tipped the guide, because it certainly was not his fault. And it wasn’t the horse’s fault either. However, it was the fault of the lady who hastily strung up my water bottle.
Those plastic water bottles make noise. Considering it is the desert, they should have water provided for the clients. (Maybe the guide could hold on to waters, or little juice boxes in a sack, and half-way through the trail ride, do a quick stop for a drink. They don’t cost much…add a buck to the price.) And enstate a rule to not allow plastic water bottles. I learned that the noise obviously spooks the horses as much as rattlesnakes. (At least I didn’t land on one of them.)
Anywhoo, my nephew was mad that no one was there. He was quite protective of his Auntie. And when we got home, he checked trip advisor, and found some serious complaints about this operation.
It’s now 3 am, and I am sore. Body is a bit achy, a few bruises, but I’m wa-a-a-a-a-y better than I could have been, and consider myself VERY LUCKY.
I will take a visit to the chiropractor when the sun comes up, and sure could use a massage. I called the company when I got home, and spoke to a manager, who had not been informed of my little accident. She seemed concerned. I’m hoping they might offer to pay for my visits today. I don’t think that’s asking too much. If they don’t, well, I will be adding the name of this outfit to my blog.
The only good thing about being up this early is that I have a talk-radio interview in Westchester,NY at 5:30 am my time. So at least I’m up. And I have a new story to tell.