A Wild Ride in Lake Geneva Wisconsin
Lake Geneva Wisconsin is only a couple of hours north of Chicago, where we lived. I wanted to introduce our Scottish visitors to the countryside, so we took a day trip to Lake Geneva. After following the Lake Shore Drive, with its fantastic views of the Chicago skyline, we headed inland a bit to take the I94 up to the Wisconsin border, where we turned due west on 50 to reach Lake Geneva.
The newly planted, green spring fields were most attractive. I was sorry we were too early for the pick-your-own-strawberry fields, but all the trees were fresh and in every shade of green, the last of the blossoms lingering. We saw some of the dairy cattle that Wisconsin is famous for, and stopped in a cheese shop that allowed tasting of some of the delicious local cheeses.
We were just starting our return journey mid-afternoon when I spotted a roadside stall with enticing fruit and vegetables. It also happened to be a horse farm, and they had a large poster advertising trail rides. My five-year-old son pleaded with me to take him, and in spite of my reticence (I had only been on a horse twice before), I relented. My friends offered to take my three-year-old daughter for a walk so I could make David happy.
Placid she was not. She cantered at top speed down the path.
I requested a mature, slow horse because I admitted to the owner that I was not a proficient rider. The leader told me he had chosen a placid mare who would not buck or prove to be difficult. We went over the commands she could be expected to respond to, so I felt a little more comfortable as I mounted. David was lifted to sit in the saddle in front of me. I had never tried a Western saddle but really appreciated that pommel before the hour was out. I could hold on to it with one hand and keep my son safely in the saddle.
There were eight other riders and the leader. We all started out in a field where the horses were grazing, and mounted with assistance. I was probably the least experienced adult, but there were a couple of teens who had only been on horseback once before. The leader started and I kicked my horse as I had been told to, hoping she would get going. I would have liked to be in the first two or three behind the leader.
Perhaps I didn’t kick hard enough, or perhaps she was just anxious to show me who was boss, but she kept on grazing and took no notice whatsoever. Eventually, already 15 minutes into the hour, after several more attempts to get her started, I resigned myself to being there when everyone returned.
We came to a fork in the trail and she hared down to the left at full speed.
Suddenly, while I was trying to comfort David–he was upset that we were left behind–the horse decided she had to make up for lost time, and took off. Placid she was not. She cantered at top speed down the path I had seen the others take. We came to a fork in the trail and she hared down to the left at full speed. I felt I was hanging on for dear life, both mine and David’s. I kept yelling to him “Keep your head down!” as there were bushes, including some prickly hawthorn, and low tree limbs hanging over the path.
I collected quite a few leaves in my hair as I could not keep my head low enough while shielding David. There were so many narrow misses when we could have both been tossed out of the saddle as she suddenly darted around a corner on the winding path. My fear was that David would fall off and my mare would not stop. That pommel was my lifesaver.
My horse braked severely, and how we didn’t catapult over her head into one of the others I will never know. I breathed a sigh of relief, and brushed some of the leaves from our hair.
I prayed constantly as we hurtled forward, not slowing down for anything, until way up ahead, I spotted the group walking sedately down the trail. As we approached, my horse braked severely, and how we didn’t catapult over her head into one of the others I will never know. I breathed a sigh of relief, and brushed some of the leaves from our hair. I hoped David’s heart was not pounding like mine.
I would have liked to talk to the leader at the front of the column, but there were eight horses between us. I tried to shout to the people ahead to ask them to relay a distress call to the leader, but they were either too far away to hear, or didn’t understand me. The leader didn’t even’t seem to notice that we had initially been left behind.
Having had her excitement for the day, our mare decided she was hungry and this was grazing time. I did everything they had suggested to communicate it was time to follow the others, but for the next 10 minutes she seemed oblivious to any commands. I was terrified of a repeat of that first wild ride, which must have lasted fifteen minutes but seemed like an eternity. She satisfied her hunger with about ten minutes grazing, then cantered to catch up, but at a slower pace than the breakneck speed of the first lap.
I was so relieved to see it and to dismount with all our bones intact.
The trail was not nearly so overgrown, so I could sit up a little more and not crouch over David. Eventually, we returned to the first field. I was so relieved to see it and to dismount with all our bones intact.
After that day in Lake Geneva Wisconsin, David never requested to go on another trail ride, and I wouldn’t have agreed if he had.