I’ve lived in my house, here in this horsekeeping community, for nearly three years. As I ride around I cross paths with the same horsey folks over and over, until they become familiar faces. I get to know them and their horses. Some have become trail riding acquaintances and even good friends. Others, however, remain elusive characters, known only to me by their peculiar habits and their questionable interpretations of horsemanship. I’ve decided to share a few of these puzzling people with you, for both entertainment and educational purposes.
Crazy Galloping Man is also distinguishable by his attire and his tack. He’s always dressed in a ball cap, jeans, and a dark t-shirt that’s emblazoned with some kind of cowboy logo. I’d tell you what it said but he’s always moving too fast for me to decipher the lettering. His western saddle is remarkable because it looks like one I owned when I was a teenager. Yes, in other words, it’s “vintage.” The cantle is laced with silver bands and the leather cap on the saddle horn is torn and flaps up and down. This detail is apparent because Crazy Galloping Man is often gripping onto the horn with his free hand in order to remain upright in the saddle. This is yet one more indication that perhaps Crazy Galloping Man should first perfect the slower gaits (and his sense of balance) before embarking on the gallop, but I’m assuming that has not occurred to him.
I first encountered Crazy Galloping Man last summer, when I was stabling Joey at my parents’ place. It gave me a chance to introduce Joey to the trails on that side of town. I decided to ride him up to the new Starbucks, and I wanted it to be a pleasant experience for the three-year-old. It was a tight squeeze navigating up the narrow trail to the parking lot, where a hitching post stood inside a small corral. We were moseying along when suddenly Joey’s ears pricked up and he raised his head. I could feel him tense up beneath me, ready to spook. I turned in the saddle to look behind me and here came a wild-eyed bay horse at a gallop, scattering gravel and dried grass in its wake. The man aboard seemed oblivious to the havoc he was about to create. Then again, he didn’t appear to have full control of his mount. His elbows flapped at his sides and he held onto the reins like a water skier holding a tow rope.
“Hey, don’t run up my horse’s butt!” I yelled.
Slam! The collision happened anyway. All I got from the man was the comment, “Sorry.”
Momentarily, perhaps due to the impact of the body crunch, the bay horse broke stride and trotted a few gangly steps. But the guy banged his heels into his horse’s ribs and urged him back into the gallop. And off they went. That a way.
Joey and I were left behind, slightly dazed and covered with a dusting of grit and foxtails. I patted my confused little horse, thanked him for not bolting, and continued my ride. I chalked up the altercation as just one more nutty day riding the trails in town.
But then, several weeks later, Ron and I were driving home from the feed store when we spotted a man galloping alongside the main street. Four lanes of traffic sped past, and driveways intersected the bridle path, leading to the front steps of businesses and stores, but this man continued to blaze down the trail, mere inches from trucks and autos, at full speed ahead.
“Wow, look at that guy!” Ron said.
I noticed the ball cap and the silver lacing on the dark oiled saddle. “It’s him!” I exclaimed. “That’s the guy who ran into Joey and me!”
One more sighting at the river park, where I caught a glimpse of the same man on the same horse wearing the same clothes and tack at the same breakneck speed, inspired me to create the moniker Crazy Galloping Man. It seemed like the perfect title. After all, he had to be at least a little bit crazy to ride in such a free-wheeling manner. And virtually every time I saw him he was, indeed… galloping.
But would Crazy Galloping Man gallop into my memory, never to be seen again? No.
Just last weekend I was schooling Wally in the arena behind my house. One of my trail riding pals, Natalie, was there as well, aboard one of her quiet grulla geldings. When I finished loping some figure-eights, I rode to the center of the arena. Natalie joined me and we sat there, letting our horses cool off while we chatted about stuff. And then he appeared, as if from nowhere, like a phantom of the trails! His horse’s winter coat was curled with ringlets of sweat, and white lather oozed from beneath the saddle pad. The arena gate was closed but not snapped shut, so all it took to spring it open was for Crazy Galloping Man to plunge his horse’s chest against the metal pipe frame. Then horse and rider bolted into the arena. While Natalie and I sat there on our horses, Crazy Galloping Man began his usual routine. He kicked his horse into the gallop—on the wrong lead of course—and made lap after lap around us. Each time his horse cut the corner more and more, shaving off the turns until we could feel the warmth of his horse’s body heat.
“Who is this guy?” Natalie asked.
“Oh, that’s Crazy Galloping Man,” I replied nonchalantly.
On one of his sprints past Wally’s nose, I asked flatly—but rather diplomatically, considering the circumstances—“Excuse me, but do you ever slow your horse down?”
He had to hear me, owing to the fact that he was so close that I could’ve plucked off his sunglasses, but I didn’t receive an answer.
After exhaling a loud sigh, Natalie said, “Well, I think it’s time we got out of here.”
So before my nemesis could make another pass we rode out the gate. Coming toward us, headed into the arena, was another horsewoman. She was riding a handsome black gelding and ponying a fat palomino mare. She glanced at the curiosity in the arena and then at us.
“Are you gals going to ride off and leave me in there with him?”
We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. I spoke. “He’s not exactly in control. But he likes to gallop. A lot.”
“Well,” the lady on the black horse said, tugging the lead rope attached to the palomino, “I think I’ll just do a lot of long trotting on the trails and stay out of the arena.”
And thus we all departed, away from Crazy Galloping Man. When I last saw him he was on lap 5 or 6 of the arena, his bay horse in full stride, looking much like Smarty Jones working a mile at Churchill Downs. But in a western saddle.
So who is Crazy Galloping Man? What’s his background with horses? And why is he always riding so fast? Is he being pursued by unseen evil forces? Or is he preparing his horse for some unbeknownst marathon? And why on earth does his horse put up with him? Long before now, Wally would’ve unloaded him and Joey would’ve simply planted his feet and refused to go forward.
If I ever catch Crazy Galloping Man at a standstill, I swear I’ll ask him these questions. I’ll get the full scoop on why he prefers the feel of a runaway train over a cadenced jog or a clippity-clop canter. In the meantime, however, for my own protection I’ll just steer clear of him and his warp speed steed.
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