Suddenly breaking into a run, Stormy took off at a fast clip up the hillside. I held on as well as I could, bouncing up and down in the saddle while I maintained a death grip upon the pommel with one hand. I held the reins with my other.
Branches from the close-in spruce trees on both sides of the trail lashed my face. I was reviewing my life as it flashed before my eyes when I remembered the advice my cousin Liz gave to me before we left the meadow of her Colorado high-country home about turning Stormy in a circle if he started to get away from me.
You see, Stormy has attitude. He doesn't brook fools or tenderfoots. I might be a fool too, but I clearly was a novice, not having been on horseback for thirty years. As passing evergreen limbs threatened to sweep me off of Stormy's back, I pulled back on one rein.
Before the ride, Liz had saddled Stormy for me and offered to get a footstool so I could use it to mount the gelding. That's western-speak for, You're a dude, man.
I declined the stool but I did take Liz's advice about demonstrating who was in charge to Stormy. Before I climbed aboard, I spent a minute pressed in close to the big horse, leading him around in a tight circle by gently pulling his halter to one side and forcing him around with my body. Now as the hilltop loomed, I viewed that as a minute well spent.
Stormy's head came around in response to my pressure on the bit and he went into a turn. He slowed down to a walk.
Liz, who rides every day, trotted up on her horse and said, "Well done, Peter. Stormy tested you and now he respects you." I just beamed for the rest of our slow and peaceful ride through the beautiful and quiet National Forest, observing deer and wild turkeys and passing over bear scat.