MY horse's name was Thor, which was ironic, because that's exactly what my thighs were after riding for 45 minutes.
Thor was a big horse. Nevertheless, I detected a hint of fear in his eyes as I approached, as if he were thinking, "My god, that large man isn't going to get on me, is he?"
Let's be honest here. If body types were supermarkets, I'd be more of a Safeway than a 7-Eleven. OK, Costco. But when it comes to horses and fear, it's always been a one-way street: me afraid of them. It's a fear that I have nurtured through the years. So, as I approached Thor, it was a little surprising to see that the hoof was on the other foot. Yeah, big boy, I'm getting on you.
We were at the Kualoa Ranch for my daughter's 11th birthday. She wanted to go horseback riding. She wanted to go when she turned 9, but I told her it was against my religion. I'm a devout coward. It took two years for me to get around to taking her. And, so there we were in the paddock and the mighty Thor was pleading with his eyes with Judy, one of our guides, not to let me get upon him.
A little kid started up the steps to get on Thor, but Judy shooed him away.
"No," she said, pointing to me. "This horse is for the big, uh, the large, uh, I want that gentleman right there." You don't put a 7-Eleven-sized kid on a Costco-sized horse.
So I climbed aboard and we moved out into the waiting area something like the Titanic leaving the dock. The other riders marveled at my gigantic mount. A big man on a big horse is an impressive sight. Then Thor began to pee. It was a prodigious flow. A veritableNiagara. And, the people were amazed. It was unceasing. Incessant. Unremitting. In a word, astounding. It flooded the ground. It formed a vast lake. It spread across the dusty corral like a tidal bore.
"He's broken his horse," a small child said. Or maybe I just imagined it. I was feeling a bit conspicuous. Other horses were backing away.
"Bear up, old boy," I said, patting Thor's neck. "We'll get through this."
The waterworks stopped and Thor adopted an expression of tired resignation.
With all the other riders mounted, we began a lovely 45-minute trek along the flanks of the Koolau Mountain range. Thor was a champ, leading the way along a trail. Kualoa Ranch, the expansive backdrop for many movies and television shows, spread out below us. In the distance, Chinaman's Hat floated on a still, blue sea.
It was incredibly beautiful. And, although we weren't galloping across the tundra or jumping hedgerows, we were technically horseback riding, something I once vowed I would never do again.
But that day 37 years ago, when the devil horse my father had put me on tore across the Georgia countryside like a creature possessed, was a dim memory as Thor transported me at a reasonable pace through this rolling ranch land.
Back at the stables, I dismounted like a true horseman, without the use of the lubbers' steps. I'm not sure if horses can look relieved, but Thor was doing a pretty good job of it. I patted his neck one more time.
"See?" I said. "That wasn't so bad was it?"
Judy led Thor away to a holding pen crowded with other horses.
My daughter and her friend were ecstatic with their ride. We agreed we would have to come back again. Somewhere in the holding pen I thought I heard a horse begin to cry.
Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
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