On Horseback

People who love sports cars are uniquely sad. Make no mistake, souped-up vehicles are killer, and custom culture is a lot of fun, but at the end of the day the sports car obsession feels hollow and garish in its need for stats and speed. There is something detached and dull about zipping down a road as a flash of headlights and luster. It’s just physics, no poetry. Does anyone’s coat flap behind them?

Horseback will always seem to me the rawest of conveyances. It involves the knowledge of a hardy skill, a sense of constant danger, and a living creature raging beneath you. There is no air conditioner, no computer console, just a beast frothing at the mouth as it goes bombing across a field or over a hill. All your coat does is flap on horseback.

By riding a horse, you admit that to travel great distances with incredible speed, it is only appropriate that you should unite with an older and more powerful part of the earth. A horse requires food and water, but more than that it requires trust and acknowledgment.  Do you want to charge into battle on the back of a creature you’ve beaten into submission or tamed through brutal domination? No, you want to do so in congress with an animal who is proud to bear you on its shoulders. You want a steed as fearsome as you are. This is a romantic notion, to be sure, but it’s certainly more noble in my mind than riding into battle in a Hummer.

Riding a horse is also incredibly dangerous, and requires some skill. Getting thrown by a horse is basically designed to break the human neck, and a shoed hoof to the face is a great way to adopt a speech impediment. Horses are smart, proud animals made entirely of muscle, and as such should be respected. That is part of the inherent coolness and nobility of riding on horseback–the understanding that you’ve taken the time to learn how to do something which could at any moment get you killed.

The union between man and horse has been fraught to say the least, and I will accept any and all gripes from those of you with an animal rights agenda. Yes, shoving a metal bar in a creature’s mouth so you can steer it properly is undoubtedly messed up. Yes, those carriage guys in Central Park are more often than not monsters. This isn’t to say that the horse industry isn’t inherently corrupt, only that if you’re going to be proud of your form of transportation, it’s better to take pride in a majestic beast rather than an electric razor with satellite radio.

So to all of you out there dreaming of a Porsche or a Ferrari or a pick-up truck–I respect you up to a point, but if that’s the extent of your desire, you’re weak. Sure, that vehicle might be a status symbol that goes two hundred miles an hour, but it’s also a declaration that you’re more concerned with window dressing than power. Be a creature of blood and soil. Admit your bestial nature. Learn to ride a horse.

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