From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

Easy Boot Bridge

When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.

Mary Kay Ash

Every week, back when I had a riding school, I used to take some of my working students, friends and anyone else who wanted to go on an all-day trail ride with picnic lunch.

One extremely hot, humid day, I coaxed Abby, Kara and Heather to join me. I chose a trail that we all really liked on hot steamy days, one that crossed the river several times so we could sponge the horses and stay cool ourselves as we crossed to the trails on the other side.

One such crossing was muddy on one side, the water belly deep to the horses and we had to go under a suspended snowmobile bridge that was not safe for horses to cross. Once across, it was back up a steep slippery bank on the other side. The only alternative, to go down into the river on horseback, was much too steep and scary, especially for young people.

So we crossed that ford and made it up the other side and continued on our way.We picked up a trot and I realized that my horse King was trotting funny. I looked down to discover that we had lost an easy boot; rubber boots I had been experimenting with that replace shoes. No one had seen the boot come off, but these little babies run $40 apiece, so we doubled back and retraced our steps hoping I could find it. We didn’t see it anywhere along the trail. “Maybe you lost it when we crossed the river; it was pretty muddy there.” offered Heather. So, back to the river we went.

I tied my horse up to a tree and told the girls, “I will be right back, watch King for me.” I proceeded to carefully climb down the bank—remember I said it was steep. About a third of the way down, I lost my footing and slid all the way down the side of the hill into the river. The sound of laughter filtered down the hill as I came to rest, cold and wet and waist deep in the river. Gathering myself together and ignoring the laughter that was now echoing through the trees, I continued under the bridge and across to the muddy part of the embankment. Miraculously, I found the easy boot there on the other side of the river. I held it up and yelled, “Hurray, I found it!” My exuberant cheer was met with even heartier laughter from the girls . . . What’s up with that?

With a tight grip on the boot, I started back through the mud, into the cold, waist-deep river. I crawled up the bank only to fall back into the water one more time. By now, all three girls were laughing hysterically and I’m dead sure I heard the horses snickering at my expense.

When I finally crested the hill; muddy, wet and a little peeved at the lack of sympathy, all I could say was, “What’s wrong with you girls? What’s so funny?” Abby, the only one who could stop laughing long enough to talk (and, who many years later would become my daughter-in-law) replied, “We were just wondering, why you didn’t use the bridge.” Gotta love those girls.

Vicki Austin

off the mark

©1999 Mark Parisi. Reprinted by permission of Mark Parisi.

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