50’s are the new 30’s. Ok, maybe I’m pushing that a bit, but I’m now officially part of the “AARP Club”. Let the member benefits begin!

Cat Maudy’s repair list is nearing completion – but she is still dockside. My big day would be filled with land-lubber activities. After sharing coffee and tea with hubby Paddy – it was time to find a workout. I met Jill at the Merritt Club the moment it opened – and we raced to the pool to be sure to get a lane. Racing was not necessary. Nobody else was silly enough to go to an outdoor swimming pool – with air temperatures in the upper 50’s. As we were about to begin our swim with a photo-op….Longshoreman Walt arrived at the pool scene for a swim – and asked to be in our picture. Notice the scary man in our swim photo – this is Walt. We don’t know him. He’s a longshoreman. We didn’t ask any more questions.

Swimming was glorious, where I highlighted 30 days of freestyle learning – and Jill demo’d the “Pro” version. Something to aspire to. We hopped onto as many machines as possible – to achieve 50 events for the day. From biking, to ellipitical, to stair climbing, to balancing, to step aerobics…and finally some hoop action — the gym workout was just the right dosage for this new member of the 50’s Club.

Morning endorphins were running high – and it was time to hook up with big bro Chuck, fluffy sis Jill, girlfriend Tami and hubby Paddy for a trip out to Misty Manor Riding Stable – to go horseback riding.

I have never been on a horse. My mom loved to ride horses as a child, until she had a tragic fall, nearly died, and ended up in the hospital for 6 months. She never rode after that, and refused to allow me to ride a horse in my younger years. Fast forward many many years – and it was time to see what horseback riding was all about. I envisioned my big day, in a corral, on a geriatric horse that didn’t have the energy to do anything frisky, and someone holding it’s leash – guiding me in circles for an hour. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Misty Manor Farms…is a “REAL” farm / riding stable. Horses, pigs, goats, extra large dogs, cats all run free. There are no fences here. There is no corral. This should have been my first clue.

We all had to sign a LOT of paperwork saying that we understood that:

  1. horseback riding is very dangerous, and the horse could kill us
  2. it wasn’t the horse’s fault if it did
  3. you could wear a helmet if that made you feel better

None of us opted to wear the helmets. Perhaps the corral was just out of sight?

It was time for horse assignments. Paddy was first to hop on his horse named “Lightening”. Paddy & Lightening seemed at ease with each other. Lightening was docile – and Paddy & Lightening patiently waited for the rest of us to get mounted. I’m guessing Paddy was a Cowboy in his previous life.

Jill was next, and she was assigned a horse named “Alaska”. They bonded immediately. Well, of course they would. Jill spills out that she had taken horseback riding (English) as a youngster. English riding is similar to how the jockeys ride a racehorse. I worried the farm folks would think we are experienced riders – based on the show by Cowboy Paddy and Cowgirl Jill.

Time for bro Chuck to saddle up onto a horse named “TJ”. TJ had a mind of his own – and immediately headed for the large tub of water to quench his thirst. TJ was in charge, tho Chuck appeared very comfortable with that fact. My brother is very easy going.

My turn. I saddled up onto “Winston”. I repeatedly informed the farm folks that I had NEVER ridden a horse before. They smiled and nodded, and assured me that Winston was the perfect horse for me. I put one hand with an iron clad grip on the saddle, and the other held onto the reins. Winston made a beeline for the drink bucket, and he (and I) dipped many times.

Tami, has been my childhood friend since the age of 6. One of my early recollections, has been her (and her siblings) undisputed FEAR of animals. I’m talking kitty cats, dogs, gerbils, toads, frogs, you name it. One year, her mother tried to correct the children’s misguided fear — and bought a few cats to roam free in the house. All I can remember — is that every child SCATTERED when the cats appeared in their rooms. The children were terrified. It did nothing to alleviate their fears. So, I was STUNNED (and amazed), to hear that Tami would be joining us for this horseback riding adventure.

Tami was last to get saddled up, and perhaps too nervous to catch the name of her horse. We’ll just give him a name – “Horsey”. I stared in amazement at Tami bonded with this very large animal.

Our horse guide – Dave – blathered out trail riding instructions:

  1. Follow the horse in front of you -in single file…in a specific horse order. No exceptions.
  2. My horse Winston would bring up the rear.
  3. Stay on the muddy tail…off the trail are hornets nests – and they get really mad this time of year
  4. Winston has to stay far back from Horsey (directly in front of Winston)- cuz Horsey liked to kick backwards.

    This was a good opportunity to try out religion. Please let Winston keep a good distance form Horsey.

    That was IT for instructions. Cowboy Pat was directly behind Trail Guide Dave, followed by Cowgirl Jill and Cowboy Chuck….All 3 looked very comfortable on their horses.

But wait. Where is the corral? Where is the human on the ground with the leash? None of those appeared.

So, there we were. 5 of us, and trail guide Dave along a skinny trail, single file, thru the fields and forests.

Winston was not keen on playing “follow the leader”, and Horsey was moving at a much slower pace than all of the other animals. Since Winston could not leap frog ahead of Horsey, Tami & I gradually lost ground from the rest of the pack.

At this point Winston decided it was time for lunch. He put his head down, and happily rummaged off the trail. Tami’s horse had stopped completely. No more forward propulsion. Trail Guide Dave yells at us for failing to control our horses. Okey dokey. Perhaps some instructions would help?

Dave finally provides a few instructions. We are to kick the horse to get ’em to move faster, pull their heads HARD to the right or left to make them move in that direction. Oh yeah, and pull the reins back to make ’em stop going forward. It sounded so violent. Tami and I were on the same page. We would not kick the horses to make them go faster. We preferred that they move slowly.

I don’t think Winston had been fed for a week. He was hell bent on eating. I kept pulling his reins per Dave’s instructions so that his head could not make it down to the foliage…but now all Winston does is jerk his head up and down uncontrollably. Winston is not happy, and I’m starting to get a bit concerned.

Winston has finally had enough of trailing slow-poke Horsey. Winston decides to make a break for freedom, and gallops in the opposite direction. I’m hanging on for dear life…and bouncing along a top of Winston. Holy moley!!! I do what any novice horseback rider would do — scream for HELP!!!!!!!!!!!

Trail Guide Dave arrives just in time — to yell at me again for not controlling my horse. I’m not sure which is more appealing – Dave yelling at me for having no clue how to ride a horse, or Winston taking a shortcut back to the ranch. Pat, Jill and Chuck wait patiently on very calm horses….for Tami and I to catch up.

Things seem to be going better as we weave thru the woodlands, jump over very large downed trees, and ride single file down to the riverbank.

About 10 feet from the riverbank – Chuck’s horse TJ has decided that there is NO WAY he is going to keep going. Can’t say that I blame TJ. The trail gets extra muddy, and who knows what’s in that water? Dave yells at Chuck to slap his horse in the butt.

I watch in amusement. It appears that I’m not the only one who refuses to slap and kick the horse to make em go faster. We waited a very long time for Chuck to convince TJ to get down the little bank and hop in the water. TJ finally obliged, despite very strong objections.

Unfortunately, while waiting for TJ to make his move, Horsey and Winston began acting up. Tami becomes terrified of her beast….and I’m getting more nervous by the minute. I pretend to be the horse whisperer, to no avail. Winston has a violent head bucking thing going on – and I start a new religious moment praying that he doesn’t thro me off. Every other sentence, I try to convince Tami that “all is OK”. Cowboy Paddy and Cowgirl Jill at the head of the line were smiling, laughing, taking pictures and enjoying the moment. Eventually, our horses resumed “follow the leader”…and we were now hoofin’ it thru the riverbed.

We traversed thru the river, and up the riverbank into the Patapsco State Park…for a brief road crossing…and then up a mountain. Tami, in a quivering voice inquires every 5 minutes “Are we done yet? How much longer?” I reassure her that we are almost back to the ranch. But, Tami is much too smart for my benign response. “Jane – How do you know how close we are to the finish?” I’m just “sayin”.

Tami wants to beat feet…get off her horse in the middle of the trail, and walk back. I can relate. As I suggested to Tami that she think other thoughts for awhile…suddenly all of that head bucking by Winston tore the reins completely out of my hands. The knot that holds the right and left rein came undone…and the reins were dangling on the ground. OMG….I yell out “I’ve lost steering!!” Dave is not quick to respond…and Winston steps on the reins nearly throwing me over his head. I yell again – “I’ve lost steering”.

Perhaps “lost steering” is boat terminology — but it applies to horses. Many minutes go by until Dave shows up to grab the lost reins. I quickly restore the knot in the reins. Now, Tami is in a frenzy….since I was in a frenzy….the horses sense the frenzy, and we go round and round on this frenzied merry go round!

I’d sure feel a lot better if Winston would stop the head bucking. It seems if the horses keep moving along without stopping – Winston settles down. We are approaching a brief hill climb. The lead horses on Cowboy Pat and Cowgirl Jill gallivant at a brisk pace up a short hill. Sure enough, Cowboy Chuck and TJ also gallop up the hill. Woaaa. Tami will freak when her horse starts galloping. So, I give play by play instructions — “Tami – your horse is going to run up the hill…so hang on with everything you got…he’ll stop at the top…it’s OK”….Both Tami and Horsey made it to the top of the hill intact. Winston and I followed suit – and miraculously, our horses settled back to slo-mo at the top of the hill.

As we passed along the wide open field, with the riding stable in sight…TWO HOURS from when we started this adventure…my only thought was “how quickly could I get off of Winston?”. Tami interrupted that thought – and immediately informed the farm folks that she needed to be FIRST off her horse. Before I knew it, Tami had dismounted and made a 100 yard dash for the car.

Out of the corner of my eye, a very unusual situation was unfolding. In an instant, Alaska, along with Cowgirl Jill took off on a FULL SPRINT inside of the barn. I watched sissy disparately pull back HARD on the reins – without ANY success. There was no controlling that horse – Alaska was on a mission. Sissy and Alaska are now out of view – somewhere in the barn. As much as I wanted to know if Sissy was OK…First things first. I just HAD to get off of Winston. It was a glorious moment stepping into the mud and horse poo. I was back on land and off the bucking beast.

Paddy, Chuck, Sissy, Tami and I were reunited, and walking around like cowboys. It will be days before I can bring my knees together. Cowgirl Jill and Alaska were just fine. Apparently, Alaska was hungry and wanted to be first to the food trough. I can relate.

Next stop…barbeque, amazing salads and toffee-crunch CAKE….along with a slide show of how I’ve aged over 50 years (thank you Big Bro – only you would know!). From this slide-show, I’ve learned a few simple things about myself:

  • I’m always exercising
  • My clothes don’t match, and I’ve never acquired any fashion sense
  • I love CAKE!

Many thanks to family Paddy, Chuck, Sissy, Tami, Emma, Mike and Fred for putting on a most memorable day!! You guys rock!