Feeling horsey today:
The compact bay mare’s eyes widened, nostrils flaring at the thin trickle of water crossing the trail. Gathering her well-muscled hindquarters, which should have been clue enough for the chatting rider, Lena leapt over the offending water, the force jerking her passenger’s head back and pitching her off to the side of the saddle.
Jen groped for the saddle horn. Hauling herself back to the center of the saddle, Jen reached down Lena’s thick black mane to find the reins she had let go. She patted the mare’s red-brown neck, “Sorry girl.” Turning to Beth who was riding behind her, “She always launches herself over these little bits of water, and yet she’ll walk right through a raging river!”
The mare whickered, a soft, deep hum from her throat, and walked on through the green, gray grove of Aspen. Jen and her cousin Beth had gone for a lunch ride. It was Beth’s last day on the ranch, and Jen so wanted her to love the beauty of it the way she did. But Beth had just said, “ I’d choose the ruggedness of Chicago over this back-of-beyond wilderness.”
Beth wore riding breeches with tall dark leather boots, and a new Gap sweater with a matching maroon ribbon holding back her curled black hair under the velvet helmet. Jen’s wild brown curls were everywhere but under her rabbit felt cowboy hat. Her red-checked flannel was long untucked from the tooled leather belt and Levi’s cinched around her slim waist. Jen’s chocolate brown lace-up Ropers were hanging loosely by her stirrups. Beth had been trained in the English style, and executed that discipline flawlessly. Jen was, though, by far the better rider, with a deep sense of how a horse moves and thinks enveloped in her bones.
They had come to the middle of the grove, where granite rock formations jutted straight up out of the earth. Jen pulled Lena up, flung her right leg over the saddle horn and hopped lightly to the ground. She flipped the near side stirrup up, loosened the mare’s cinch, slid her bridle off and watched as Lena began grazing, shearing off the green clumps of meadow grasses with precision. Beth removed her right foot from the stirrup; swinging her right leg over the back of the saddle and leaning her weight on it, she slipped her left foot out of the stirrup, kicked out slightly away from the horse and landed on the ground. Beth followed the same procedure as Jen, and allowed her sorrel gelding the same freedom.
Jen retrieved their lunches from Lena’s saddlebags, “Come on Beth, this little deer trail leads right to the creek. We can eat on the rocks, I’m starved.” Beth pursued, eager for lunch after the long ride. The tall dry grasses brushed Beth’s fingertips as she paced along the dusty path, brushing off her jodhpurs. They followed the smooth trunks, around the corner to the little rustling creek. Jen had plopped down on a flat rock by the clear water and was busy getting their lunch out. Beth brushed off a rock, and lowered herself next to Jen.
Thick slices of the leftover brown sugar crusted ham they’d had for dinner last night, lay between the square pieces of whole wheat bread from the bread machine. The rich smell had both girls taking big juicy bites. There were barbeque chips, squashed from the ride, gala apples, cold water, and large chunks of chocolate chip fudge brownies, which were Jen’s favorite. Crunching sounds and satisfied sighs filled the silence of the afternoon. They both lay in the sun, soaking up the warmth for a time, “I could stay here forever.” Jen said in a dreamy voice. “ It is pretty. But you should come to Chicago sometime, we could go out to the teen clubs, or shopping in the malls.” Beth was already getting up and heading back to the gelding. “Are you ready, Jen?”