Flying // by Colin M. (April 2016)

When I rapped on Mom’s door, I had no idea that today would be so memorable.

“Mooooommmmm? May we ride Lucy?” I holler. I slump back against the door, hearing dishes clinking in the sink.

“Shhhh!” I wail to my siblings, “I can’t hear!” Then back to Mom, “What did you say?”

“Yes… Just be careful.”

“Okay! Thanks Mom!”

I turn and happily run down the hallway, with the clump-clump of my boots accompanying me. Once outside, I shout “Maaaadieeeee,” as loud as I can.

“What?” She calls back, the sound of her voice echoing off the mountain.

I holler back. “I’m riding Lucy, wanna come?”

“Sure! I’ll be there in a few seconds!”

As I wait for my older sister, I sit down on the sun-baked, red brick steps. I close my eyes, basking in the warm spring sun. I open them again, and look out over the field. I see our three steers, our goat (Minna), but no Lucy! Where is that horse? I think. I scan the field again, more carefully this time. Ah-hah! I see a bit of red tail poking out from behind the rock. Sure enough, she moves out from behind the rock.

I sit there looking at her, with her chestnut colored coat glinting in the sunlight. I see her beautiful, red ears, and deep brown eyes. I can even faintly see the white heart on her belly that caused her to be named Lucy, after the TV show, “I Love Lucy.”

Maddie runs past me, asking “Are you coming or not?” I leap up and sprint to the fence post that controls the high-tensile electric fence. I pull the lever down, careful to only touch the plastic. I’ve been shocked before, and I sure don’t want to repeat the experience.

Ducking through the fence I yelp to Maddie, “Wait for me!” But by the time I make it to the our weathered-poplar barn, Maddie already has the saddle out.

This saddle is my favorite. As it was Mom’s when she was younger, the leather is worn and smooth. However, the padding is still soft. This saddle is also the hardest to stay on as their is no horn or cantle, and the seat is very slick.

I open the metal gate, and slip into the tack-room. I squeeze past our riding mower and the big metal food cans to make it to the saddle and bridle stand. I grab the bridle and hurry back out into the sunlight, anxious to get started. I hang the bridle on a nail beside Lucy’s door, and then walk back into the tack-room to grab a bucket of grain.

I snatch Lucy’s halter and lead rope from a nail stuck into the post across from Lucy’s door, and start shaking the bucket of grain--the little pellets sound like rain on a tin roof.

As I shake the bucket, I walk outside the barn to where Lucy can see me. I see her look up from the green grass before shaking her mane and whickering, and then starting to gallop up the hill towards me. Maddie stands beside me as the ba-bump ba-bump ba-bump of Lucy’s hooves grow louder. I hide the halter behind my back as Lucy plants her hooves and slides to a stop. “Showoff” I chuckle, before turning and walking into her stall with her following me.

While I dump her grain into her grain-bucket, Maddie closes the stall door. Before Lucy can get her head into the bucket and start eating, I take the halter and position it over the bucket. Lucy snorts and stubbornly turns around.

I give the bucket another shake, and she turns her head towards me, evidently making a decision--the decision to be ridden and get extra grain, or not be ridden and not get extra grain. As always the grain wins out and she turns towards me. She snorts again and reluctantly sticks her head in the halter, allowing me to fasten on the bridle. We really need to stop having to bribe her with grain, I think, as I clip on the lead rope. Maddie tramps in with the brushes, and thoroughly brushes both sides of Lucy.

I grab the saddle and hoist it onto her back, groaning under the weight while I hear the saddle groaning and creaking with me. I cinch it down as far as I can make it, and then step away.

Now for the tricky part… The bridle. With Lucy being as stubborn as she is today, she will not make things easy for us. I slouch against the rough wood wall as Maddie slips through the door and grabs the bridle. When I hear the door creak shut again, I stand up and pass the lead rope through the bridle. Maddie slips the reins over Lucy’s head, and holds the bridle in front of Lucy’s long face. She sticks her thumb into Lucy's mouth, but Lucy stubbornly keeps her mouth closed. “She's being really stubborn today, isn't she?”

“Yeah she is” Maddie replies.

“I wish she would just go ahead and realize that we aren’t going to give up.” I say.

“Yeah… but being the pigheaded horse that she is, she won’t.”

I chuckle and say, “Let’s go ahead and finish tacking her up.”

This time, we go at it with a renewed vigor, with Maddie holding the bridle in front of Lucy’s face again. I stick my thumb into her mouth. Lucy keeps her mouth closed, so I thrust my thumb in even deeper. She reluctantly half-opens her mouth. Maddie promptly sticks the bit in her mouth and holds it there while I get the bridle over one ear. Then we quickly fit the bridle over the other ear, and we’re ready to ride!

Maddie attempts to lead Lucy out of the stall, but Lucy plants her feet and doggedly stays in the doorway. We tug and wheedle, but Lucy is very strong-willed. Finally, I get beside Lucy and shove as Maddie pulls. She grudgingly moves into the barn yard. “Do you want to go first or me?” I ask.

“I normally go first, so I guess you can.” I’m nervous. The first person who goes has to deal with a fresh horse…

I grab the shiny black helmet and pull it on before plucking up the bucket. I slowly sidle up to Lucy in an attempt to put the bucket down without her knowing, but I have no such luck. Lucy wheels around the moment she sees me. I sigh. “Why don’t you try putting her head to the wall?” I ask Maddie.

“That usually works, let's try it!”

After Maddie maneuvers Lucy so that she has her head against the wall, I set down the bucket near her side. I jump up onto the bucket and shove my foot in the stirrup. Lucy starts sidling around, but not too bad so I go ahead and start swinging my other leg over. Lucy jerks to the side, and then starts walking! I’m stuck half in and half out of the saddle! “Whooaaa girl,” Maddie says while she tries to stop Lucy. I finally manage to swing fully into the saddle. I wildly snatch at the reins while Lucy steps out into the bright sunlight.

I blink, momentarily blinded after the dim barn, then hear Maddie say, “Have you got the reins?”

“I guess,” I acknowledge.

“Well, if you do then I’m letting go.” She answers back.

“Alright… here goes!”

I cluck to Lucy, and gently tap her sides with my heels. Lucy starts to walk away from the barn, but then Minna, our goat, bleats. “Maaaaaaa” she says. Lucy immediately tries to turn around and go to her. I keep her head straight, but Lucy walks at a slant. I groan, “Lucy? Why’ve you gotta be so stubborn?” When Lucy crab walks far enough from the barn, she starts going straight forward again.

At this time, we have the cows, and the half of our field where we generally ride is fenced off. This means that we have to ride along the top of a big hill, and Lucy almost never does well. I start to trot Lucy along, and she does well enough. When we reach the other side of field I turn her around, and she starts to try and speed up. “You barn sour old ninny!” I exclaim, pulling on the reins to slow her down. Relentlessly she continues to speed up.

“Arghhh-- why do you have to do this?” I groan.

I pull her head around so that she is turned towards the fence. She continues towards it at the same speed. I lean back in the saddle, knowing what’s going to happen. Sure enough, Lucy skids to a stop at the last possible second with her quivering nostrils almost touching the wire. “You okay?” Maddie hollers.

“I guess. Knew what was going to happen.”

With this exchange, I turn Lucy’s head back towards the barn and urge her to a walk. She still wants to go faster, but I keep her slow. When we reach the break in the fence that allows Lucy to go into the barn but not the cows, I stop her. One of our chickens starts clucking up a storm. “Must of laid an egg.” I tell Lucy.

I pull Lucy’s head around to start out again, and repeat the trip. Lucy still causes trouble, but not as much. The third time, I decide that Lucy’s been doing well enough that I want to try and canter. I stop Lucy at the turn around spot, and look at the long green track. It looks decidedly like a race track and I don’t like that one bit. From up here, the ground also looks awfully far away.

I set my jaw, then cluck to Lucy, getting her into a walk. After a few steps, I cluck again for her to go into a trot. I clutch her mane, bouncing up and down in the saddle. I cluck for the last time, urging her into a canter. I’m now about halfway down the track. This is one of my first times cantering. It’s like sitting on a large, violent rocking horse. All of a sudden, Lucy plants her feet and skids to an abrupt stop. I feel myself falling forward over her right shoulder towards the grass. I guess I let go of the reins, because next thing I know, I hit the ground and roll, the helmet protecting my head. I roll onto my feet, springing onto my feet. My heart is going as fast as a jack-rabbit’s.

I quickly grab Lucy’s reins so she won't get away. I stand there, hyperventilating.

Maddie comes running over, and leads Lucy back to the barn. I shakily follow her, my legs barely supporting my weight.

When we get back to the barn, I hear Maddie inquire, “Do you want to get back on and ride? Or do you want me to go ahead and ride her.”

“Why don’t you ride her, and I’ll think about it.”

“Okay,” she says.

I hold Lucy for her while she gets into the saddle, then grab the bucket and sit on it as Maddie rides away. I sit there watching her, as I try and talk myself into conquering my fear and getting back onto Lucy. I know I need to, otherwise Lucy will just do that every time. I think. Yes, but that was so scary. I really don’t want to repeat the experience. Are you a wimp? Well no, I guess. Then get back on there! I watch the chickens scratching up the grass, and I decide that I will get back on, just to show Lucy that she can’t boss me around. When Maddie comes back, she asks me if I’m done riding. I say no, and that I’m going to get back on. I get back into the saddle, and ride away.