I was put on a horse as soon as I could walk, just like Christa in the novel Christa’s Luck. There is a picture my father took of me on a horse with my cowboy hat on — cowboy boots, and two toy six-guns. I love horses. My favorite place to be as child was in or around a barn or stable where there were horses to ride. When I turned 9 my parents sent me to camp for a week in Minnesota. There were lots of activities there- canoeing, hiking, and games, but the main event for me was horseback riding — I wasn’t big enough to get the saddle on top of the large horses we rode but I’d get help from the ‘cowboy counselor.’ (yes, one day you can grow up to be a cowboy or cowgirl counselor)
I went to this camp for 3 summers and somewhere in my last year I was thrown over the head of a horse three times during one ride….the last time barely missing a tree. This horse was not trained and either was I, the rider, and the horse seemed to know that. He wanted me off. Here’s the scary part about horses: even if you’re a rodeo star; if a horse wants you off, you end up on the ground eventually. Riding is a partnership, and we’re there to guide, lead, and inspire. But horses are unpredictable and have unique personalities. They are wired to run when they’re scared. Which can make riding a high-risk activity.
Christa’s adventures really demonstrate this point. Especially when she meets Jenner, a 17-hand beauty she can’t seem to control. Christa is no stranger to falling off her pony, Lucky. He had a streak of mischief a mile wide and she even broke her collarbone after one particularly nasty fall. But when she rides Jenner it’s like me at camp multiplied by 100 million. It’s not that Jenner wants to dump Christa like my frustrated horse in Minnesota. It’s like he forgets she’s there altogether! Fear inspires flight in horses ( I think we can all relate to that- us guys tend to want to fight too !) and Jenner is no exception. When something scares him ( I won’t give away what that something is) he takes off like a bullet across the desert and Christa clings to him like a bug to a windshield at 200 mph. And let me tell you, Jenner isn’t the only one whose afraid then. I’ll let Christa tell you about it in this excerpt from the book:
I pulled on the reins as hard as I could, but he fought harder, almost yanking me out of the saddle. The wide, sage-covered plain opened up in front of us. He wrestled the reins out of my grasp and charged forward, gaining speed with each monstrous stride.
My eyes stung and blurred in the wind. I grabbed his mane, digging my fingers in deep. He stretched out in longer and longer strides, his hooves tearing chunks out of the ground. Faster and faster he ran. He stretched out low to the ground, his neck extended like a racehorse just out of the gate. Sharp rocks and hard ground blurred beneath us. The speed jarred my body. I can’t fall…
I stopped riding after being thrown from that horse at camp (now I ride a Mustang GT) — and I wouldn’t blame Christa for giving up on Jenner. Is riding horses risky? Yep. So is loving. In either case your likely to get something broken, maybe even your heart. But Christa knows in her heart that horses are her passion; the ones she rides as well as the wild ones that speak to her soul of freedom. So to her Jenner is worth fighting for. Will her love of horses run stronger than her fear– and will she get hurt?