This isn't completely out of left field; the wife has always loved horses and rode some as a kid, and I actually owned a pony as a child, though I didn't ride him nearly as often as I probably should have. At any rate, neither of us had actually been on a horse-like creature in at least 20 years, and certainly not since aquiring that most adult of emotions, fear. Fear of falling off. Fear of looking like an idiot. Fear of smelling like a horse for the rest of the day. I don't know when this kicks in, but it's certainly present for me in places it never was before. Like roller coasters. I love roller coasters, the faster and twistier the better, but I've found I simply cannot look around on the way up the first hill anymore. I'm stomach-clinching terrified of the height on the boring part of the ride. Not even the anticipation of the first free-fall, just the fact that the ground is far away now. How screwed up is that?
Anyway, we drove out through the hills to the Fort Valley Ranch, just outside Edinburg, VA. Arriving well before our appointed departure time, we noticed a lack of crowd, despite the fact that the website noted that "reservations strongly recommended." In fact, the only person we saw anywhere was in the paddock with about 20 horses, snapping a bullwhip, and swearing in a drawl somewhere between Marlboro Man and NASCAR Woo Guy. This man, it turned out, would be our guide, Shane.
|The best picture I have of Shane, at right. I would've asked for a better portrait, but frankly the thought scared the bejesus out of me. There's that fear again.|
His opinions on the wildfires were spot-on, though. Only a complete and utter jackass would throw a cigarette butt out the window in a forest in summer.
|Above: Rider's-eye view of Buddy, plotting his next move.|
Below: Buddy's rider, putting on a good face for the camera.
|You the man, Joel.|
|That's DeeDee, our waitress. She was perfectly friendly and efficient, not theatrically mean like we're supposed to expect from diner waitresses in a post Ed Debevic's world.|