An important part of being a wrangler, believe it or not, is looking like a wrangler, which means jeans, boots, button-down shirt, cowboy hat and, of course, the belt buckle. Some wranglers wear spurs, but since I’ve never been properly trained in how to use them, I refuse to wear them. I’ve seen some spectacular “rodeos” caused by inept spur usage.
There was one day when my wrangler get-up almost got me in a whole heap of trouble. I had just lead my ride – of only three guests – into the yard and “parked” my horse at the wrangler rail. I was riding a tall horse. Who am I kidding? All horses are tall next to me; I’m only 15 hands tall (that’s five foot nothing). I was riding a horse taller than my usual wrangler horse, so I cheated a bit on my dismount. That’s where I got into trouble.
Normally, when you dismount, you swing your right leg behind you, over the horse’s rear end and place your foot on the ground, and then remove your left foot from the stirrup. Now, this being a taller horse than usual, if I had put my right foot on the ground, I would have had my left foot at approximately ear level. I was much younger and much thinner then, but I was not nearly that flexible.
So…rather than dismount the normal way, I kind of cheated. I swung my right leg behind me, over the horse’s rear end, kicked my left foot out of the stirrup and slid down the side of the horse. Sort of. I got both feet kicked out of the stirrups and got most of the way down the side of the horse before I came to a rude and painful stop with my feet dangling above the ground. Besides the obvious felt-like-I-just-straddled-a-tight-rope painful sensation, there was a sharp, stabbing pain in my abdomen.
It took me a second of hanging there before I figured out what happened. The bottom edge of my belt buckle had gotten hung up on the stirrup, the top edge of the buckle was digging into my stomach. I was stuck; I tried to touch the ground with my tippy-toes, but no go. I tried just swinging away from the horse in hopes that the buckle and stirrup would part ways; that was also a no go. I finally had to pull myself back up the side of the horse with one hand on the back of the saddle and one on the saddle horn. Thank God I had spent the winter in the gym and had the upper body strength to do it. Once I pulled myself up high enough to unhook my belt buckle from the stirrup, I pushed away and jumped to the ground.
I was so involved in getting myself untangled from the stirrup that I had completely forgotten that I had an audience. Oops. Bad Wrangler. I’d already made a complete fool of myself, so no sense in trying to play it off, I just warned them not to try to dismount the way I did, that it wasn’t graceful and was very painful.
After they left, I untucked my shirt to look at my stomach. Yup, there it was – a perfect outline of the top of my belt buckle. That little beauty stayed for days.