My first summer working at the stables in Graeagle was full of adventures and moments of growth. None so prominent as the ordeal I went through when I decided I really liked being in Graeagle.
It was the middle of July and I had finally gotten in the groove of my new job. I knew every horse’s name, I was starting to enjoy spending time in the little town, and I finally could lead trails without getting lost. Or so I thought.
Any trail stables has its share of miscreant horses, and Kid is ours. He has two speeds on the trail, slow and slower, and no amount of kicking, hitting or negotiating will make that horse go any faster than a leisurely plod. When he is not walking, which is about 60 percent of the time, he is eating, and no amount of kicking, hitting or negotiating will convince him to start walking again.
One day my manager, Rosy, told me to follow her on a ride on Kid. It was an extraordinarily hot day, and the dust from the eight other horses ahead of me clung to my face and eyelashes. After a while of me reprimanding him for his lack of movement, Kid started to be better-behaved. But, as soon as the ride turned toward home, Kid starting trying to take over.
I had seen Rosy take a horse completely away from the trail when it was starting to act up like this. So, without any warning or alert to Rosy, I turned completely around and made Kid hightail it away from the herd.
We galloped up one of the old logging roads in the woods, and before I knew it I was coming to the farthest point of the property I had ever been.
At this point, Kid was panting and lathered in sweat. If I were smart, and not an adventurous 18-year-old, I would have called it quits there and walked Kid back. As it was, I was standing at the bottom of a very steep hill at the end of the logging road wondering what was at the top.
So, Kid and I started climbing. I was so concerned with whatever holy grail I was going to find at the top of the ridge I didn’t think about the fact I had no water with me. I didn’t think about the fact that my cellphone was charging back at the stables, or that Rosy probably had no idea what happened to me.
When we reached the top I could see the entire Mohawk Valley, and it felt like I was on top of the world. Kid was even more out of breath, so I gave him a while to rest.
When Kid was breathing normally again. I turned him around to make our way back down. The trouble was, I had lost the trail.
Again, being the smart 18-year-old I was, I decided to just pick a point and make my way down the mountain. Since the stables was in the only valley around the area, I figured as long as I could make it down I’d be fine.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves trapped in a huge bramble of manzanita bushes.
Kid was tired and not moving and I was starting to panic. Suddenly all of the things I hadn’t thought about before I made my way up the ridge came flooding into my head.
I called out for help, but knew that was pretty pointless, so I did yet another stupid 18-year-old thing: I got off my horse.
I let Kid, who instinctively has a better sense of direction than a compass, fend for himself, and I began clambering down the mountain.
After about an hour of fighting branches and tumbling over rocks and fallen trees, I literally fell into the back of a house. Rejoicing that I had found civilization, I walked around to the front where a man was washing his Porsche.
With sweat running down my face, twigs and leaves stuck in my hair and holes in my clothes, I’m sure I was quite a sight to this guy. When I explained that I had gotten lost on my horse, the man gave me some water and a phone, with which I called my panicked manager.
He then gave me a ride back to the stables in his shiny Porsche, which to this day is the only time I’ve ever ridden in a Porsche.
When I got back to the stables, Kid had already beaten me there. A scowling Rosy told me he was escorted by a police car flashing its lights to warn the people of Graeagle that there was a rider-less horse trotting through downtown.
For the next week my trial was the talk of the town. We got calls asking about the horse, and where the rider was. Porsche Man even called to make sure the lost cowgirl was OK.
Though the whole situation was at my expense, I don’t think there could have been a better way for me to understand that where I had chosen to be was different than any other place.
Kid is still the stubborn horse he has always been, but I have a newfound respect for him. C.S. Lewis says, “Not all who wander are lost,” and though I’ve wandered a lot, I don’t think I really have been lost since.