Some days, do you ever wonder if you're being filmed for one of those TV prank shows? Like, this experience is so ridiculous that it just CAN'T be real? Today, was one of those days. It all started when lets call her.....Karen.... shows up with her husband a whole 30 minutes early for their trail ride. Now, let's just paint this picture early birds; it is middle of summer in Central Texas, triple digits at 4:30pm as this story unfolds. Karen has already texted about two hours prior asking if we are still trail riding today since its so hot. Well, since I still have to feed my horses, pay my AC bill, and keep the lights on in my home, yes. I also like to eat. Is this my choice temperature to do trail rides? Hell no. But, life must go on. I advise Karen in the text hours earlier to bring water, a hat, and sunscreen.
So here we are, 101*, Karen begins complaining, "It's SO hot!". She gets back in the truck husband has left running and parks herself there for the next hour. Yes, HOUR. Meanwhile, our remaining guests happily arrive, and sprint out of their vehicle smiling. Remaining guests brush their horses happily, pet their horses, bond with them, adjust their hats, and prepare for a joy-filled ride. I inform Karen's husband that unless they brush their horses as instructed 30 minutes ago, we will be leaving without them. Husband peels wife out of the truck, asking several times, "Are you sure you don't want to just stay here in the AC?"
Karen insists she's going.
Karen spends a total of 90 seconds brushing her horse, commenting how big his feet are with a negative undertone. To sweeten the mood of sour-grapes Karen, we decide to give her the Gel-Seat Billy Cook saddle. Yes, you read that right, she got to ride in my several thousand dollar roping saddle. If you're still sour grapes after that, well, there's no helping you.
We give the guests our signature 5-minute riding tutorial explaining the basics; mounting, whoa, go, turn, and rein management. Karen stands in the shade staring at her shoes, having informed us earlier that she has ridden "extensively". Clearly, no intention of gaining important skills like how to actually control your horse.
Karen climbs aboard her totally gentle Tennessee Walking Horse, Scout, that has had riders as young as two, and as old as 85 ride him. Immediately, she gathers up the reins SO TIGHT, the dogbone snaffle Scout is wearing is gagging him, and has the sides of his mouth peeled back in a terrified "smile". Scout was NOT smiling! Head tossed back about 6 inches from Karen's nose, Scout is trying his best to figure out what he should be doing since Karen's shouting "WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!" at the top of her lungs. The other horses at this point are staring at Scout in pity. If they had eyebrows they'd all be raised. After the third suggestion to Karen, that she should give Scout a loose rein and pet him while he stands still waiting for the other riders, she proceeds to ask in the most haughty tone, "Are these even REAL reins?"
At this point, my give a damn has just about busted. To which I reply, "Well ma'am, I'm not sure what fake reins are." Karen rolls her eyes, and informs me they must not be "real reins" because they aren't leather, and there's not two separate ones.
I take a deep breath, pulling from my morning meditation session all the Jesus patience I can muster, and flatly give Karen a bit of cowboy education. "Karen, those reins are called roping reins. They are made of braided rope, and there's only one rein connecting both sides of the bit because the American Cowboy has to multitask. We have to be able to swing a rope, steer our horse, chase the cattle, and sometimes drink a beer with one hand while riding with the other. If you were paying attention to our tutorial, you would have learned how to hold those reins and use them. Let me show you again."
Karen rolls her eyes, and paints a sour-lemon expression on her face while I get aboard my own horse. I head my horse out on the trail, all the other riders, two of which were first-time riders, happily maneuver their horses exactly as they've been instructed in line to follow along.
About 200 yards into our trail ride, Karen screams from the back her horse is bucking! I whip my head around to see Scout has slightly tripped over a rock, and is attempting to get Karen's death grip on his reins loosened so he can see where he's going. I shout at Karen, 5 horses back, to loosen her reins, my back-rider instructs her for the umpteenth time to do the same. He adds that her horse didn't buck, he just tripped a little. She mumbles something inaudible.
Scout pushes his way around the other horses as the ride continues, and sides up to my horse, glaring at me with eyes of distress, fear, and helplessness. I tell Karen once more to loosen on the horse's face and tell her she is hurting the horse. Karen informs me that I didn't see her horse trying to buck, and then asks if our horses are "allowed to put their heads down". I ask Karen what this means. Horse expert Karen explains that horses should NEVER be allowed to move their head from an upright, center position.
I tell Karen that horses are living breathing creatures, not robots, and that they NEED their head to be able to look around, see what's in front of them, and around them. I tell her horses are not a drug-store 25-cent machine pony ride, and that the best way to enjoy a real horseback ride is to relax, and connect with your horse.
Karen informs me none of the horses she's ever owned were allowed to move their head. I told Karen that was a shame, and she probably missed out on a huge connection with horse friendship and spirit. A horse won't be your friend if you treat him like a prisoner. In fact, your horse will not ever consider your well being when it counts if you don't develop trust, and become his friend. I've been saved by both of my own personal horses on several occasions because they love me, acknowledge I'm part of their herd, and value me as their friend and leader.
As the ride drags on with Karen, complaining about one thing or another the whole way, she insists she and her husband should stop for a photo shoot. So, we stop the entire group to cater to Karen, in an attempt to quell her constant complaining. This doesn't work. Instead, Karen's horse reaches his head down to nibble a patch of grass in the shade. Karen screams "OH MY GOD I GOT ROPE BURN! This horse put his head down! This is the rudest horse I've ever ridden! This horse is a maniac!" Scout is still quietly nibbling grass in the shade.
At this point, I couldn't help but bust out laughing. I dismount my horse, walk over to Karen, hand her the dropped reins back, and lead her over to husband's horse for their photo. I tell Karen, "You know, you're lucky you didn't lose a finger! Last person I know that got rope burn was roping a steer and lost his thumb." Karen sits in silence, her mouth in a flat line for the photo. I tell Karen if she'd prefer she can walk back to the ranch house.
As I mount up on my horse again, my back rider offers Karen to ride his horse instead. Karen refuses and says she's just fine. As we poke along, Scout and Karen right beside me, Karen asks, "is there a place to stop and get something to drink out here?"
Me, "No Karen, since Corona Virus, they shut all the pasture convenience stores down."
We ride to the pond. Karen, "Is my horse allowed to be rude and put his head down to drink?"
Me, "Well Karen, wouldn't you like a drink since it's so hot?"
Karen, "Oh, yes! I'd love one!"
Me, "Good, well your horse drinks before you do. He's top priority. So yes, your horse gets to drink as much as he wants. You get to drink when we get back."
Karen's face twists into an indescribable shape.
We rode back the rest of the way with the other guests happily chattering away. Everyone but Karen commenting how lovely their horses were, what a great time they were having, and planning return trips. Karen sits in silence.
Back at the hitching post, all the other guests dismount drama-free just as they've been instructed. Karen screams at her husband to "Get me off this horse!"
Karen's husband reminds her that she insisted on coming, and he could've come by himself. From the tone of the comment I sensed he would have preferred that.
Karen sprints to the front porch of my house and lays down on the cement like she's dead. Karen's husband tips us extra well, obviously embarrassed by his childish wife's actions. Half expecting Karen to be loaded into her vehicle on a stretcher from the scene she made, I was pleasantly surprised when her husband hefted her rear into the passenger seat, bid us farewell, and drove across our front lawn before getting back on the driveway.
To my shock, an MTV crew did not bust out of the bushes anywhere and inform me I'd been pranked. Yes, this was real.
Happy Trails Karen. STAY OFF MY LAWN (and my horses)!