It was my second 110F temperature day in Las Vegas -
Now, some people are afraid of mice - me! Some people are afraid of cats - definitely not me! Some people are afraid of horses - Me!-Me!-jumping-up-and-down-and-waving-frantically-Me! So, why did I pre-book to go on a horseback ride in Red Rock Canyon (about 40 minutes out of Las Vegas)?
....because I wanted to be a cowboy, that's why. I wanted to ride the range wearing a cowboy stetson, with spurs a-jangling, warbling "Riders in the Sky", and pretending to be The Sundance Kid.
Cowboys in movies amble through the desert, lazily riding through rocky terrain and in and out of cacti and rattle-snakes, with barely a second thought.
I had second thoughts as my horse was led toward me. This mare was awfully tall. I'd like to say it was the heat that had my heart beating as fast as a rocket ship in flight and, of course this was part of the whole thing, but I was also as frightened as a jack rabbit. The travel insurance people had pointed out to me that if I had a fall from a horse, they would take no responsibility unless I was wearing a riding helmet-
In my cowboy imaginings, there was no riding helmet. Pssh! - cowboys did not wear riding helmets.
And so I wore a stetson ... but when I signed a waiver from the horse riding company exempting them from any liability, I was truly in panic mode.
With the aid of a step-stool, I got astride a horse, frantically trying to remember all the instructions the wranglers had told us. Did I lean forward or backwards going up a hill? Did I strike my heels into the horse's side when I wanted it to stop, or was that start? Which way to turn the reins? I was told to talk endearingly to the horse. And to always (repeat-always) hold the reins underneath the knot. Oh, and to never-ever-ever let go of those reins.
"Let me fix you up," said a Bonnie Springs Ranch wrangler. He wrenched my legs down-down-down into the stirrups. I felt like I was being stretched on an Elizabethan rack. I'm short and my horse was .... round. My inner thighs were in such pain...
I don't want to do this-I don't want to do this-I don't want to-
We were off, about ten of us in single file. I started to shake. And sweat. I thought it was raining until I realised my hair was dripping ...
I banged my foot on a gate as we turned a corner and my foot came out of the stirrup. A wrangler had to rescue me.
The ride lasted an hour and every second I prayed to every god in the universe to let it finish quickly. The trail was about two feet wide, with rocks, and curves, and mountains to traverse. Okay-okay, maybe not mountains, let's say hills... Alright, slight rises.
Be nice to your horse, we'd been told. So every now and then I whispered sweet nothings: "There's a good girl. Who's a good girl. You're a good girl. What a good girl." Well, it works for my cat.
The horse turned it's head to look at me and I swear it rolled its eyes.
I was afraid of the horse bolting, or me falling off, or mis-interpreting the horse-riding instructions. The trail was no more than a couple of feet in width. If my horse encountered a rock on the trail, she did an arc around the rock and I went into a grand panic. The horse in front had a poo and my horse obviously thought "No way" and veered us off the trail for a few seconds.
I want to go home-I want to go home-I want to go home.
The hour felt like two weeks.
As we re-approached the ranch, I was hyperventilating. The burro bite the previous day hadn't helped.
And I couldn't get off that horse - I was stuck statue-like in the saddle, having a complete panic attack. I eventually did get down with the help of a wrangler.
A fellow tourist, in her seventies said soothingly to me, words to the effect of , "There's a good girl. Who's a good girl. You're a good girl. What a good girl." She'd just come off a seven day horse trek in Morocco and knew her stuff.
Why couldn't I have had a fear of clowns, or rice pudding?
My embarrassing cowboy days are truly over....