When I was in junior high, my mom reconnected with a guy she knew when she was a teenager. His name was Ray, and he came to be known by us as “Uncle” Ray. Uncle Ray was a police officer and his wife, Shirley, was a teacher. They never had children, and he swooped into our lives and started taking care of us like we were family.
Uncle Ray and Shirley had a farm about 45 minutes away from us. And this farm had horses. We started going to the farm on Sundays every few weeks during my freshman year of high school, and I claimed one of those horses as mine.
Ace was the wild horse. He didn’t like to be saddled or reined, but he loved to give kisses. He had the softest mouth, and when you guided his face toward you, he would move his mouth up and down on your cheek like he was giving a kiss. He loved to eat carrots out of my hand and have his mane brushed. He was my favorite.
The other horses were sweet and good-tempered. They were easy to ride and followed commands well. But I always loved riding Ace. I can remember one time I got him all saddled up, and was walking him in the field to help him expend some energy before I mounted. I was anxious, and didn’t take as much time as I should have. I climbed up on Ace’s back, and he started a slow walking pace. As we neared the woods on the far side of the property, I brought Ace to a trot. Ace decided that meant he got the clearance to break into a gallop. I panicked. The path in the woods was fairly narrow, with some low-hanging branches. I did not want to be stranded on the saddle with Ace at a full gallop. I made a split-second decision to dismount. I swung my right leg off his back, let it join my left next to the stirrup, then let go of the reins and jumped down to the ground.
Ace continued his freedom run, as I got control of my runaway heartbeat. I walked back to Uncle Ray and my mom, still shaking, and Ace came sauntering back like he hadn’t just tried to run away with me. After realizing I was not injured, we unsaddled Ace and put him back in the barn, where he happily munched on some hay. I’m certain he would have been laughing if such things were possible.
I don’t think I rode Ace again after that, but he was still my favorite. And I have so many great memories of the times we spent at that farm.