Ginger was three months old when she was first placed into my eleven years old hands. She was a scrawny foal and I was given the job of bottle-feeding her.
When she was old enough to start riding, I couldn’t wait to do what I called “practice emergencies”. I would get on my horse and get her to gallop in a small ring. Then I would literally leap off of her just to see what she would do. I would yell “Whoa!” because I had seen it on the TV. My goal was to train her to stop whenever I fell off. We were doing pretty well given I was a very young trainer. But Dad said it was risky.
Our barn had a nice shady trail with a steep embankment on the right side with woods on top. My horse knew the path well. There was no cross path, so I would hold the reins loosely in my hands and let my horse wander her way along the path.
One fine morning, about a mile into the path, she stopped and snorted, holding her head high. I recalled Dad once saying that it meant she was nervous. I insisted her to proceed.
Suddenly a massive buck came crashing out of the woods to the left of the trail. He made a deep bellowing noise at her. Panicked, Ginger reared straight up in the air. My flight creature went up the embankment to our right. The only thing that went through my head as I clung there was something my riding instructor had told me -“If a horse ever rears, you must jump off quickly so they do not fall on you”. In fright, I did so.
As I jumped, the reins that were tangled in my hands swung me under her like a pendulum. No sooner had I ended up lying flat on my back under my horse, her hooves came flailing. Death was near! I had to think of something fast.
I yelled “Whoa!!! Whoa Ginger! Whoaaaaa!” Scared, I hid my face under my hands.
Ten seconds had passed and nothing had happened yet. I peeked and saw a Ginger frozen in mid-rear. Then she lowered her hooves and planted them carefully on either side of my head so as not to step on me. She lowered her head and sniffed me, making sure I was okay.
She was shaking. I was shaking. I stood up and almost fell again but she was there. I untangled her from the vines and gasped to see the cuts on her. I carefully retrieved the reins and we found our way out of the woods.
In the last five years, we navigated murky water, rode to victory for my school’s equestrian team. But I will never forget the day she put aside her instinct and saved the scared little girl who once held her in her lap.