My horse is 750 pounds. My saddle is 40 pounds. I am 85 pounds. My own skeleton barely supports me. Added to the 40 pounds of saddle, and transporting it 30 yards under my own power has become a daunting challenge. I think to myself, “a 200 pound wrangler would have to carry a saddle that weighs 95 pounds to match my ratio. My horse would have to carry 390 pounds to match it as well.” Luckily, this isn’t my first time carrying this saddle. See, this saddle belongs to my favorite horse, Thunder. I’ve carried this saddle numerous times to him and heaved it up on his back. By the way, his back is a good foot and a half taller than me.
I remember my first few days with Thunder and how he must have seen my wrestling matches with this saddle. I could barely carry it out the barn, let alone over to the hitching rack where he stands waiting, patiently. I could barely carry it then, but now, I toss it around like nothing. All I did that summer was climb rocky bluffs, walk up and down hills with my backpack, paddle my canoe across lakes, summit mountains, tube down rivers, and swim to the shore... all fun stuff. I didn’t lift the saddle every day, practice carrying it, or lift weights. Hmmm… I remember the carrying technique my wrangler suggested. He showed me the way that he did it and it seemed to make sense. He helped me the first week of camp and I gradually got the hang of it. The awkward shape and dangling pieces were much more manageable with his technique, and it became easier.
Now that I have overcome the saddle conundrum, Thunder is waiting for me. He’s patiently tied at the hitching rack, brushed and groomed, and ready for our final ride of the summer. I grab his saddle and walk, if not strut, to him. I gather my saddle pieces and toss it on his back. I know Thunder is impressed. He’s my favorite horse and we’ve become good friends. I started riding him when I first got to camp. Being from Chicago, I didn’t know much about horses, but it always excited me to be around them and to ride them. I started out learning to brush, saddle, and bridle my horse. My wranglers were great teachers. I looked up to them. I saw their confidence and it inspired me to do my best to learn and ask questions so that maybe I could be that confident with horses. As the repetition and practice of saddling and bridling became habit, we moved onto riding. Riding was spectacular. Little did I know that Thunder would be such a great teacher. Our first ride was too short in my opinion. I could have ridden for days. Thunder was strong and controlled. On our first overnight horse trip, we bonded. We rode all day to a sweet campsite; a great view, cool sunset, good food cooking on the fire, and all my friends around me. I wondered if my friends had the same feeling I did about my horse.
As I mentioned before, my other camp adventures took me to new places with new people to new heights, literally. I learned how to rock scramble, build survival shelters, identify animal tracks, and that I could climb 14,000 foot mountains. My confidence grew. I capped off my summer riding Thunder in the Gymkhana competition event against the girl’s camp. I can’t believe how much I learned in one summer, how much I learned from a horse. While I have since gone on to ride many more horses, Thunder will always hold a special place in my heart.