Family Vacations, Summer 1997
Because of the years I spent in 4-H raising and showing horses, I can say with authority and without reservation that pigs are smarter and a hell of a lot more trustworthy and, were pigs only taller and faster, I'd much prefer to have one of them beneath my saddle than some commonly addlebrained, backbiting horse.
So why do I recommend that parents set their treasured offspring upon a horse and, with them, embark upon a trail ride? Simple: As dumb as horses are, they are still one of the great ways to access the outdoors. Moreover, the trail ride is an American institution--a rare time-conduit that can transport your children and you back to the roots of a nation founded on horseback. And there is one more consideration: At some time in everyone's life, it will become necessary to ride a horse, and the sooner our children learn how to deal with the ornery things the better off they will be.
The first trail ride I took with my two sons was along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and I know that they remember it more fondly than I do--perhaps because it was my gristly little horse that chose to bolt, sprinting me out of control through a sleepy little fishing village ("Ândale, gringo! Ândale!") until it finally slowed from sheer exhaustion. My sons loved that. They thought it was funny.
A better trail ride, though, was in Colorado, where we rode beneath snowy peaks and camped beside streams. Even I had to admit that horses were the common denominator that carried us to a place in which the three of us were closer than we had ever been.