Friday, July 15, 2011

A Riding Lesson - Memory Lane Friday

The summer I was 15 I had a crush on my riding instructor.  Slender and petite, sporting skin-tight jeans, chaps, and a tucked in shirt, he dominated the riding arena as teenage girls circled him in lessons.  Curly black hair slicked back and a cigarette permanently attached to his left hand, we all adored him.  Once, he had even ridden for the U.S. Olympic team.  It didn't matter that he wasn't even interested in females.  He was gorgeous and aloof - a romantic mystery in the making.

Each Wednesday evening I and five other girls would tack up our horses and head into the arena for an hour of torment.  He was hard on us.  He had great expectations - we were his finest students.  And we never quite measured up.  He'd storm and rage and stomp across the dusty footing, curse words spewing from his mouth as he reamed us out.  Once, he taped tacks to the saddle of a girl who kept sitting back on her horse as he went over fences.  Another time we could only use yarn for reins, learning to control our horses by our seat instead of our hands.  And a few horrible times, he got on the horses himself and beat them.  He had a temper for the legends.  We were all just a little intimidated.

All we wanted was to hear his praise.  We would've done anything to hear the simple words "Good job today".  Those words would've carried us through dozens of less successful lessons. 
I recall in one particular lesson he decided to make us ride the entire lesson using jockey stirrups - stirrups as short as they would go, forcing us into a cramped two-point position for the hour.  For several of us, the stirrups just weren't short enough, so he stormed off to the tack room for a leather punch to shorten them himself.  He was in a mood that day.

None of us had ever ridden in jockey stirrups before, much less for an hour.  The stirrups began rubbing against my chaps within minutes.  Chaffing set in deep, each stride of my horse burning my left leg.  I set my jaw and soldiered on, refusing to give in the pain even as it increased.  We couldn't please the riding instructor that day - he yelled and shook his cigarette at us one by one, pointing out our faults brutally as ashes fell to the ground.  Around and around we went, the clock on the wall above the lounge stuck - minutes seemed like hours.  Still, I said nothing.

When the hour was over I jumped off my horse with trembling legs.  I didn't think they'd hold me as I landed in the soft dirt.  I pulled my chaps gently away from my leg, grimacing against the suction.  And then reluctantly pulled up the zipper.  There, on the back of my calf, was a gaping hole the size of a 50 cent piece.  Pus and blood drained from the site.  My instructor walked by, right about this time, and stopped in his tracks.
"Good Lord, Lisa, why didn't you say something?"
"It's nothing," I said, sheepishly, for I would've endured sores up and down my entire leg, if only it had made him happy.

He never made us do a lesson of jockey stirrups again after that.  But my leg still bears the scar from that day.

If you'd like to participate in Memory Lane Friday, just blog about a memory and add your website to the linky.  Please take the time to visit the websites of other participants and leave them a comment.

Next week's suggested topic is 8th grade, although you can blog about any memory and link up.  After next week, I'll be taking a short break from Memory Lane Friday for a while, but will likely bring it back at another time.  Thanks to all who have been so great about participating!

18 comments:

Ginny said...

What a HORRIBLE story!!! And I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean it was so painful to read!! You made me cringe and my stomach turn. This man must have certainly been mad, downright bonkers! Good thing that young people were his students, instead of seniors, or that Jockey stirrup thing would have given them all deep vein thrombosis and blood clots in their lungs!

Katie @Pinke Post said...

WOW! What a story. We remember the scars and sometimes they make us stronger forever. Great writing and sharing Lisa. Thanks!

Jill said...

What an awful time! It breaks my heart reading what you had to endure from that man. I love the picture of you and your horse though. You are such gifted writer.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

He sounds like a really tough teacher! I be the injury really hurt!

texwisgirl said...

brutal perfectionism.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I guess I didn't write about how much we admired him and how much he inspired us to push harder and ride better! Yes, he did do some crazy stuff and yes we all got reamed out sometimes but we really did adore him, and although he was intimidating none of us ever felt really threatened by him - just insulted and slightly scared sometimes!

Farmchick said...

Really sounds like a tough teacher to have to deal with. Good though that you did have some admiration for him...how else could you have made it.

Sonya Heilmann said...

Holy cow, that wound sounds painful!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for the little girl in you who tried so hard to please and the pain of your leg. I guess their is something to learn in all our painful lessens in life. Buy the way that is a beautiful picture of you and what a pretty horse also. Carol

Valerie said...

He reminds me a little of my 2nd grade teacher-only she wasn't as nice to look at. And she didn't smoke-at least not in class ;)

He did sound like he was pretty tough on you guys-I would have been intimidated too, and I also would have kept quiet about the pain. But I bet you learned a lot from him, despite his teaching methods!

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

What a great post. Memory Lane is an awesome road to go down especially if you have happy memories!!

Crow said...

Wow, that is quite a story. I think you were the teacher that day. ::sigh::

Kim @ Stuff could... said...

That was a memory with scars....I like horses but he was too tough??
I hope to do Memory Lane next week

Thistle Cove Farm said...

I despise bully's and he was a bully of the first order! Some one's parents should have filed charges...abuse toward children and horses. There's no excuse for his behavior and I pray time has taught him mercy and grace.

Sally said...

Great writing, Lisa, although a sad tale really. Love the photo!!

Have a great weekend. :)

dogsmom said...

I am sorry I was not able to participate today. computers are not my friend and I guess they are not meant to live forever. Mine is on its 9th life (at least.)
Your story did draw me in. I can see how much you wanted to please him and get praised.

Funny that you mnetion 8th grade for next week. Just today I was remembering an incident from 8th grade summer AND it resulted in me needing first aid. And, um, trying to please a boy.

Sandra said...

I found your retelling of this story so interesting. Of course I was hoping it would end with the instructor taking you in his arms for a passionate kiss, but I was also thinking that nowadays, that kind of treatment towards students and animals would never occur. My kids would be tattling on that guy, good looking or not, so fast he'd be standing in the parking lot with his last paycheck before he knew what hit him...I'm still stunned that you have a scar!

Jackie said...

Wow! First, I love the line
"It didn't matter that he wasn't even interested in females. He was gorgeous and aloof - a romantic mystery in the making."
Gotta love teenage girls' infatuation with gay guys!
Secondly, I applaud your dedication to the cause, even at the abuse of your body. There have been moments I remember where I willed myself to accomplish things, and in the end some strange sense of satisfaction was the final feeling.