The top left corner of the bright teal nail polish on my right thumb is chipped off.
There’s a thick black line of dirt under all ten finder nails.
When I rub my fingers together I create long, thin rolls of black from the dust and filth that’s collected around the edges of my palms.
Two parallel brown streaks run diagonally across the left thigh of my light rinse blue jeans.
The toe of my right foot boot has a row of debris wedged into the space where it’s creased from walking.
As I entered my Uber, I apologized for the slight odor which had newly taken up residence in a nebula around me. An odor to Alan, a perfume to me. A perfume of memories and the happiest of my happy places. My grey pony.
‘At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling’
-An equine proverb to measure every day with a horse against.
I got a bit confused on my dates when booking with Kim at Moss Beach Ranch, so instead of being able to drive there as I thought, I had to find another way from downtown San Francisco. I googled public transport, it was something like – a bus, to a train, to a train, to a bus, to a bus, to a walk, totaling about 2 hours if all went smoothly. OOOF. But, Uber offered the same journey in an ‘express pool’ for just $16, only a few dollars more than the multi train/bus ride would have cost me. And, I managed to my express pool door-to-door with pleasant company in the interim.
The drive out from San Francisco brings you along the coastal side of Route 1. If you make the journey with your own car and have some time to spare, make a stop at Devils Slide Trail for a beautiful coastal walk. And yes, do it on your way out, before you realize riding is actually incredibly hard and the thought of further exercise makes your legs shudder.
Luckily, Kim happened to be right where my Uber driver dropped me off, but it wasn’t necessarily the correct spot for trail rides, which is all the way to the back of the property, past the main ring and paddocks.
I followed Kim as she moved some horses around, I was a bit early. We chatted. She told me about how she had a three-hour lesson/ride booked for earlier that day but it’d been cancelled. And how one of her regulars was going to come on the ride with us, but then didn’t. Horse life.
Kim grabbed Cash, the black and white paint I was to ride. She tied him up to the hitching post and I offered to brush him. If you have any clue what you’re doing, and you are any moment early, brush your horse. Your eyes will not sparkle if you don’t. I promise. One hand on the brush, the other on the horse, it’s the only way to start a ride. And if you don’t have any clue what you’re doing, ask to be taught, if only for a moment. And that moment, that moment is everything. I promise.
I got my helmet on – Kim provides those. And hopped up on Cash. Kim starts every ride with an arena lesson. Despite my experience, and because she’d never actually seen me on a horse, she asked me to pop in there just to be sure I wasn’t full of it. I wasn’t. Off we went. An arena lesson though, can take any amount of time depending on a rider’s previous experience and comfort. Whether it’s a few minutes to go over the basics or the entirety of the ride time because either Kim or you aren’t comfortable heading out on the trail. Safety matters here. Trust your guide.
The trail we took headed immediately up into the hills which looked out towards the bay, specifically the bay where Mavericks surf competition takes place. We wiggled through trails cutting dry grasslands and into impressively (for the area) green forested lands.
Kim overflowed with knowledge about the land, its history, its landmarks, its owners. She is more than a trail guide who shows you the way, she is a trail guide who teaches you about the way.
No matter how many times you have sat in a saddle it is always a matter of trust, trust that the girth wrapped around the belly of your pony does not break, trust that the stirrup leathers attaching your metals to the saddle do not snap. But more than anything it is trust in the horse who is well and truly in control of your life in the moments you sit upon his back. And when you do not know that horse, when your relationship begins moments before you slip your foot into the stirrup, you must trust the human who introduces you to that horse.
As Cash, Kim, and I made our way slowly back down the hill toward the ranch again I was confident that all in my company were completely trust worthy. And I would not be here telling you to get your ass in that saddle, if I was not sure that saddle would keep you safe!
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