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Horse sense learned on horseback

Rosalie Justen is a member of the Jottings Club of the Lake Oswego Adult Center


Many years ago, I spent two summers in Alberta, Canada. I had the pleasant opportunity of accompanying string players on the piano at the Banff School of Fine Arts.

During the first summer on my time off I climbed Mount Rundle with two Swiss gentlemen, one of whom had been in the French infantry. They were continuously combing the horizon for the next mountains to climb. Alone, I hiked a nonstrenuous trail up from Lake Louise. At the top, a charming restaurant served delicious lunches, and the waitress brought the drinking water from the sparkling stream outside. Back at the impressive Lake Louise Hotel, one could hear a bagpiper playing outdoors a mile away. That is my preferred way of listening to that instrument.

During the second summer, I happened to meet a tall, charming young man who took me dancing at the Banff Springs Hotel. A painting on the wall of his apartment was of him in handsome red riding attire astride a beautiful thoroughbred horse. It was a magnificent scene approaching royalty. I was utterly smitten with this gentleman.

Returning to Portland, I was determined to learn to ride a horse using an English saddle. My past experience on a horse was on a trail in the Wallowa Mountains. That was with a Western saddle, which had a horn to hold on to. That horse plodded along the trail it knew so well that it could have walked it blindfolded.

Enrolled in riding lessons, I unfortunately had to miss the first class. Arriving at the second class, they put me on a good-looking horse and led me out to join the other riders. We were supposed to walk around the outer edge of the ring. My steed took a distinct dislike for me and went to the middle. He reared up and tried his best to throw me off. My instinct was to hang on to the mane, since there was no horn to grab. The instructor kept yelling at me to get my heels down. As much as I tried, my heels would not go down. My mother had come along to watch in the gallery. She was praying fervently the entire time that I would not get hurt.

Why did the instructor not lead the horse out and get me off? Who knows? The class was an hour long, and for an hour I struggled and was as determined to stay on that horse as he was to throw me off. He was dancing a foxtrot on his rear horseshoes most of the time. This truly was the longest hour of my life. When finally I was on the ground again, a helper said, “That horse is a jumper.”

The brief flirtation with the handsome young man was a spark that was immediately extinguished. I achieved some “horse sense” and did not go back for more riding classes. They say if you fall off a horse you should get right back on. Fortunately I did not fall off, so I did not have to get back on.




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