When I was thirteen years old, I had a horse named Buster. The defining attribute of this animal was his attitude. Buster was naughty! Lynn Talbot, who lived across the street, said that Buster need to know who was in charge, but Buster always knew exactly who was in charge--he was! Mr. Talbot loaned me a saddle and bridle until I could purchase my own, but I could not get Buster to take a bit, so Lynn exchanged the bridle for a hackamore, with the admonition that I would have even less control of this horse without a bit between his teeth to remind him of who was in charge.
It was exhausting getting Buster ready to ride. He would kick and stomp his hooves and throw and thrust his head, he would step away from me just as I would lift the saddle onto his back, and he would snap his teeth at me as I mounted. Once I was on his back, he would buck a time or two before he would finally submit to the yanking of reins and kicking of flanks.
To put it mildly, Buster was reluctant to be ridden. I could persuade him to walk and at times cajole him into a trot. I rode Buster all over town trying to convince him that I was in charge, but a slow pace was all he could muster, at least until I turned him toward home. Once Buster sensed I was done fighting him, he would gallop at a terrifying speed back to the house. Both Buster and I would arrive home in a lather, he from his furious hurtle and me from just hanging on.
The one place I could ride Buster with less aggravation was the rodeo grounds. There, he was willing to canter around the arena without all the work or the out-of-control, mad dash when we turned towards home. Perhaps riding in circles kept him wondering which way home was. We were relaxed and he was relatively well-behaved…at least until we exited the ring. Once we went through that gate, all bets were off and so was Buster, recklessly racing back to his hay and to be rid of his rider. This was our routine for several months.
One day as we rode into the arena, I was thrilled to see three barrels placed in the familiar triangle figure for barrel racing and I decided we were going to try it like the beautiful rodeo queens and grand horses I had watched in that arena over the years. I urged Buster forward and we trotted through the clover-leaf pattern of the three barrels finishing with a quick gallop back out the gate (because he thought we were heading home)...FUN! I had to try that again, but this time with some real speed. I drove the heels of my boots into Buster’s sides and forced him to gallop at an angle to the right side of the arena to barrel number one…around we went! Pulling hard, I convinced him we were headed to barrel number two and then things went south. As we rounded the barrel, Buster reared and I slipped from the saddle and fell into the soft soil of the rodeo arena. Even though the fall didn't injure me, I instantly knew I was in trouble because my boot was caught in the stirrup and Buster took off pulling me along. He abandoned the plan to circle the third barrel and was heading straight for the open gate. My head and body were bouncing up and down through the plowed ground making a cloud of dust as he drug me the full length of the ring. I was certain this was the end; I couldn't see how to survive that kind pounding when we came to the gravel and then paved roads, the ditches, rocks, bushes and other hurdles we would cross between the rodeo grounds and home--which is where I knew Buster was heading at a dizzying speed.
I was struggling with all my might to free my foot from the boot OR my boot from the stirrup as we flew through the gate of the arena. I was screaming at Buster to stop, yet I knew it was completely futile. Just as we entered the parking lot, Buster came to a sudden halt…He just stopped. I didn’t waste a second, without the pressure of being pulled by my foot; I could rotate the boot and extricate it from the stirrup. I jumped to my feet, fully expecting someone to be standing there holding Buster’s loose reins. But there wasn’t anyone there, at least no one I could see.
Buster allowed me to easily remount and then he calmly walked out of the parking lot and turned onto the road. It was the first time he ever returned home at anything less than a frenzied gallop. As we made our way home, I reflected on the magnitude of what had just occurred and what very well could have happened. I imagined the pain I would have experienced being pulled by one foot along this road, I envisioned my family finding my broken and bloodied body. I started shaking as these images played through my brain. I was still trembling while I unsaddled Buster, toweled him down, and gave him oats. I patted his head and went into the house marveling that I was alive.
Since then, I have come to the realization that I have a guardian angel. I have experienced other miraculous interventions which have prevented serious injury or death. I am certain my guardian angel has had to work harder and put in more time than her counterparts. She is certainly due a great deal of overtime pay on reckoning day.