Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE OUTDOORSMAN




It's hard to describe. It is the very moment when a rider feels that a horse's loosening canter has finally dissolved into something uncontrollable. There's no thrill involved: The feeling is probably something akin to being in a car while it is spinning out of control. In the end, there is more that a horseback rider can do - it's not only physics at play. At least it's theoretically possible for a rider to regain control of his horse.


I lived through such a moment not long ago in Bitsevsky Park. After riding for an hour or so, my horse, Britannia, and I were on our way back to the stable. We jumped over a small ravine, and she broke into a canter on the other side. By the time my weight was back into my heels, her run was out of my control. I didn't know the horse well, or the park, but in all of my years of riding, I'd never been on such a hysterical, crazed animal. I had to keep my head low to duck branches, and it was hard to get my bearings.


I hadn't felt that kind of total abandon since watching a Filipp Kirkorov concert. It was me on this wild and terrible beast, tearing through Russian forests. And while it is not entirely correct to say that Britannia was a horse - she was in fact a 23-year-old pony with a debilitating joint disease - nevertheless, I was living the sort of live-or-die adventure that defines a man.


When I got back to camp, the stable girl hit me because I tried to give Britannia chewing tobacco instead of carrots and sugar cubes. I didn't pay much mind though, thinking more of my rite of passage. Before, I had been a man's man - yet, now, I had transcended even that. I was like the Outdoorsman Siddhartha.


That night at Papa John's, I found it hard to connect with my friends. I was wishing that I had tipped the babushka running alongside of us holding the pony's bridle eight kopeks instead of seven. When the wet T-shirt contest began, I laughed and shouted as I always do, but with the voice of a new man - a higher man, a more elevated man who had earlier soared with eagles.


Britannia, if you can read this, I just want to thank you for the gift of spiritual growth.


- Guy Archer