The Insight of Experience

Randa and I waited while Kassie dismounted and opened the first gate. The incredible little bay Quarter Horse mare that has been my lesson horse, Brady, shook her head once and stood still. Randa’s dark Chocolate Rocky, Journey, kept a wary eye on the steers standing and staring at us from fifty yards away. Holding Lil Shiner’s reins in one hand, Kassie swung the gate open and we rode through. She fastened the gate back and swung up onto the palomino gelding’s back, led us off through the field.

Ripples of breeze stroked the thick brome, weaving patterns of silver in the early evening sun. The horses stepped along, seed stalks so tall they nearly brushed their bellies. As we neared the top of the ridge, we could see miles of fields stretching out across Atchison County. Seams of cottonwood and scrub defined the edges of low-lying creeks and ditches while locust, oak and elm patchworked the nearly endless green of pasture and hayfields.

Even with all that lovely scenery around me, I remembered to keep weight against my stirrups, toes up and heels down, to lean back going downhill and lean forward uphill, to use my knees to cue directions to Brady. We rode up and down, followed contours, eased the horses down steep cowpaths to the lake then made our own trail up through the trees.

It was a day made for this: perfect temperature, perfect humidity, perfect sunshine, perfect beauty. It was a day made for a man confronting a lifelong fear of riding horses. A man who had finally decided that learning might be a better way to master that fear, a man who had finally found a teacher and a horse that he could trust, a man who fought through the feeling of giving up during the third lesson. A man who kept trying to follow instructions even when he felt stupid and scared.

He is still a man unready for breaking horses, unready for a spirited horse, unready for galloping off into the sunset. But he finally, and for the first time, actually enjoyed riding a horse. He was sitting straight in the saddle, rein hand low to the horse’s neck, and he was smiling the whole time.

As we headed back toward the barn toward the end of the two-hour ride, I looked across the field, watching the wind dancing and weaving its way across the soft stalks and blades of brome. I felt the sun on my face and the motion of the horse beneath me.

I have not mastered but have learned at least what it feels like to let my lower body move in motion with the horse while keeping my upper body balanced. Finally, I have gained an understanding that comes by participation instead of observation. Now I know why people love riding a horse.

There are certain experiences and perspectives, gratifications and appreciations that we cannot understand by the descriptions of others: the smell of a rose, the softness of a baby’s skin, the joy of love, the unfathomable release of genuine worship. The skeptic can judge but not understand. And of what value is judgment without understanding?

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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