Even Stuntman is vulnerable to Cupid’s arrow. This is the story of the day my wife and I met. In spite of my poor showmanship that day I was still able to land Mrs. Right.
The horses’ name was Marmaduke. My buddy Wes warned me that his nickname was ‘911’. He had sent several folks to the hospital with a variety of broken bones, lacerations and other injuries. I have ridden horses off and on for most of my life. I may not have always sat in the saddle perfect, but I could always ride pretty good. He was a good horse, he just got spooked real easy. You could be walking along and all of the sudden Marmaduke would jump to the side because something moved in the periphery of his vision. If you weren’t ready for it you could fall opposite of the direction he jumped.
It is March. Ryan and Wes ask me to go to the farm with them to ride horses. Little did I know it, but I would meet the future Mrs. Stuntman that day.
It was still a little chilly that morning so we were all dressed up in blue jeans and flannel shirts or overalls and flannel shirts. It had been raining recently and the drive back to the farm was flooded over. Water was up to the headlights on Ryan’s Thunderbird. Wes had a few of his friends over to ride horses to keep them in shape. There were 3 or 4 guys and 3 girls, one of which was Lori. I immediately saw something in her personality that piqued my curiosity. She was always laughing or smiling about something. She had a great laugh…….still does.
Ryan and I were the last ones there. Everybody else was already saddled up and ready to go. Marmaduke was readied for one of the girls who had ridden all her life. Since I was going to be there they decided to let me have Marmaduke and she could ride her normal horse. As I swing up into the saddle, I realize that the stirrups are pretty short. I’m 6’1” and the saddle was set up for a 5’2” girl. Everybody is eager to get started so I figure I will just fix the stirrups later on in the ride.
We start out slow. Marmaduke has a very smooth gait. His trotting doesn’t even bother me too bad. The only thing that bothers me is the fact that I feel like a giant riding a tricycle with my knees up around my ears.
Not knowing where I am going, I let everybody else go in front of me. Marmaduke obviously doesn’t like taking a back seat to any of the other horses. He is grunting, throwing his head around and keeps trying to take off for the lead.
It doesn’t take long for somebody to take off running across the field. This is what we have been waiting for. I relax the reigns and we take off like a bullet. We overtake all the others in short order. As we pass Wes, he hollers out to warn me of a big ditch up ahead. I don’t see it yet, but when I do we’ll stop.
“Crap! Whoa, boy!” I see the ditch right on the other side of some taller grass. Not wanting to risk the horse or myself I plant my feet in the stirrups and pull on the reigns hard.
Horses that are trained well are expecting a couple of ‘bumps’ in their bit and then you ease the reigns back smoothly. This causes them to come to a smooth stop. When you get in their mouth hard and quick…they stop hard and quick. Marmaduke took this to a whole new level.
As I planted my feet, I am quickly reminded that I never set the stirrups to a proper length for my legs. The combination of stopping on a dime and planting 3′ legs in 2′ stirrups catapults me directly over the horses’ head. I lose all sense of direction and land on the rain softened earth with a less than graceful UGHN! Marmaduke doesn’t move, he just looks down on me and exhales a snotty snort on me as if to say “Dumb ass!”
Everybody rides up to me real quick to make sure I’m alright.
“I’m OK.” I hop up real quick. The only thing I hurt was my pride.
“We’ll walk the horses across the ditch and on the other side we’ll really be able to open ’em up.”
I can feel all eyes on the idiot that can’t ride. That’s all I can think about. Wes and Ryan are the only ones that have ever ridden with me, so these other folks think I’m a greenhorn. We cross the ditch/ravine, it was a good thing I didn’t try to jump it.
As we all mount back up, the horses are starting to spin a little, excited from the anticipation of the run we are getting ready to take. Wes takes off and here we go again. Like last time, Marmaduke takes off like a bat out of hell. We pass everybody in short order and there is nothing but open field ahead.
Did I mention Marmaduke could be a touch skittish? We must have been close to being attacked by brain-eating zombies cause here we go sideways. I almost get thrown and as I reach for the pommel to help regain my balance, I must have hit the eject button again. I am once again flying through the air with the greatest of difficulty like a human cannonball with vertigo.
To his credit, once again Marmaduke doesn’t try to flee, he just gives me his snort of disapproval. I quickly scramble up on my feet and angrily start to change the length of my stirrups. After adjusting them down about a foot each, the rest of the day went by with no incident.
After our third or fourth date, Lori admitted to me she thought ‘Poor fella. They shouldn’t put somebody so green on such a wild horse.’ She eventually came to love me in spite of my failings. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to date a pretty, level-headed woman who could stomach my sense of humor. Little did she know that she would be spending at least the next 16 years hearing about and re-living my antics.