Whenever I travel outside of Houston to anywhere where the general population really doesn't have any knowledge or familiarity about my adopted city, I'm always mildly amused by the preconceived notions that people have about H-Town. To be clear:
a) There are no cactii or tumbleweeds in Houston (with the remote exception of unusual and off-the-wall landscaping or decor, usually for a big barbecue or western-themed event). In fact, when we're not in a drought situation, Houston is pretty much a swamp. Think bayous and mosquitos. Think hurricanes. Think New Orleans, but bigger, and less Cajun.
b) Houston's not small: in fact, it's the fourth largest city in the United States (after New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago), and an incredibly diverse one, home to people from all over the country and the world. It's because of the oil and the medical industries, don't you know.
c) Speaking of oil, most people in Houston don't own oil wells. Or a ranches. Or even horses.
So once you know this, you won't think it strange that Marcus, Alex and I had never been horseback riding in Texas. The opportunity, frankly, had never arisen.
But around Christmastime, my English friend, Kandy (see? diverse!) contacted me. Kandy and I have actually known each other for a good 15 years or so: she and I both worked together at Very Large Corporation, where she was a technical expert, and I was a lawyer. After we both left Very Large Corporation, we remained in touch. On this particular occasion while we were talking (and I have no idea how I didn't know this before), it came up that she actually owned two horses.
"Actually, you should bring Alex out one time," she said. "She'd love it."
"Sure, why not?" she said. "Whenever you'd like!"
"Wow," I said, thinking. "Well, actually, her birthday is in March. Can we do it around then?"
"Absolutely," Kandy grinned. "The weather should be fantastic then. I'll touch base closer to time, and we'll make it happen."
And so said, so done: this Sunday (a beautiful Texas spring day, indeed), Marcus, Alex and I drove out to Aldine Westfield Stables to meet Kandy, her son Sam, and their horses: Strawberry and Buckshot.
As soon as we arrived, Kandy took Alex in hand (Sam was in charge of Marcus), and began to familiarize Alex with the horse. At first, Alex was a little nervous, but Kandy was kind (and very firm) about the rules of behaviour around horses, and the horses were lovely and gentle, and soon enough, Alex became more at ease.
In fact, Alex became downright confident. She even led a horse!
(But not to water. Which was fine, because she probably couldn't make her drink it.)
Kandy showed Alex how to groom the horses, and generally love on them, and Alex and the horses got used to each other. Finally, it was time to get tack and helmets and all that other stuff necessary to ride a horse, and everyone headed out to the arena.
First, Kandy showed Alex how she could lead Buckshot without using the reins ...
... finally it was time to ... saddle up? Get on board?
Well, you know what I mean.
Once Alex was sitting in the pilot's seat (dude, I don't know the lingo), Kandy led Buckshot around while Alex did various exercises to get comfortable with how the horse felt. You know, like ride with her hands outstretched...
... and her hands on her head ...
... and of course, backwards.
I have no idea.
There was clearly method to Kandy's madness, however, because after only about 30 more minutes of tutelage and exercises, my girl was off:
Far too quickly, it was time for us to leave Strawberry and Buckshot. So we brought them in, and gave them baths, and said our goodbyes ...
... and then we drove off into the sunset.
(For Mexican food and margaritas.)
(Thanks so much, Kandy and Sam, for an amazing day!)