"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ride Your Own Horse

When I was growing up, we always had a bunch of horses around the farm, and most of them were too wild for us kids to ride. My dad was always afraid we'd get hurt so he wouldn't put us on anything that wasn't broke really well or ridden down for a few days before we climbed up on its back. Many times if he was breaking a colt, he would "snub" the colt to an older horse. By this, I mean he would put a lead rope on the colt's hackamore (he preferred hackamores to bridles). The person on the older horse would help control the colt with the lead rope. The person on the colt had the reins, but the snubbing rope was an added insurance in case the colt started bucking or decided to run away.

One of my dad's favorite horses was named Dan. He was a spirited Appaloosa. Dad wouldn't let just anybody ride that horse because he was afraid if the rider "didn't know what he was doing" he'd "ruin the horse." I'll never forget the day when he decided he was going to let me ride Dan. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous–more about ruining his horse than getting bucked off. Dad decided we were going to ride to the top of Blue Mountain at our ranch, a steep climb through pine trees and over rocks. Even though he'd ridden Dan pretty good ahead of time, we started out with Dad snubbing Dan to the horse he was riding. By the time we got to the top of the mountain, Dan was tired (or at least I hoped) and dad wrapped the snubbing rope around my saddle horn. I was on my own on the ride back down. It was quite a thrill to ride that horse. I made it back to the ranch in one piece and didn't ruin Old Dan.

I know you're wondering what this has to do with writing. Well, I'll tell you. We all like to have some help now and then with our writing. We like someone to hold that snubbing rope and keep us from getting bucked off; i.e., rejected. We want to hear what others say about our work. We want their advice, their critiques that will kindly and gently point out bad plotting, punctuation mistakes, weak conflicts, poor characterizations and so on and so on. But sooner or later, we have to gather the reins, put our foot in the stirrup, and settle our butts down deep in the saddle. We might be a little afraid to put our heels to that horse, but there comes a time when we have to trust ourselves, our knowledge, our instincts, and all we've learned along the way. Sooner or later we have to let go of that snubbing rope and ride our own horse. What's the worst that can happen? If you get thrown off, just dust off the dirt and swing into that saddle again.


Jim Allan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda Gaume said...

Love this post... and the picture of you on Dan. I miss riding sometimes. And your dad.

You are so correct in comparing riding to writing. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

LadyMac said...

Excellent post. I liked the comparison and the pictures! I used to ride my grandpa's horse. He used to always have me ride Old Bay Boy. That particular horse was too old and tired to run away with me. I hope that doesn't compare, in any way, with my writing. :)

B.J. Anderson said...

Wow, I've never heard this story before. I love it! Great inspiration.

Eunice Boeve said...

Hi Linda, I just ran across a blog of yours I printed and saved (about editing) and that made me wonder what you were up to now. My dad knew horses and loved horses. After his cowboy days, he packed for the Forest Service. He died when I was five, but I was closer to Six, and I have some fond memories of him. I like your analogy between riding on your own and writing on your own.

Linda Sandifer said...

Thanks for the comment, Eunie. I miss those days riding with my Dad. He was a wonderful horseman.