It was absolutely pouring rain. In America you always hear the expression, “raining cats and dogs,” but as I spurred my horse through the thick trees in the Transylvanian forest in the country of Romania all I could think was “it’s raining vampires and gypsies!” Not that I’d seen a vampire yet. It was only my first month working and living in this country with horses and since one of my favorite trail rides overlooked the small villages and the “Gypsy housing development” as my boss loved to tell the tourists, the only thing I thought I hadn’t seen yet was the famous Dracula.
But right now, Dracula was the furthest thing from my mind. After all, today was a big day for me. I had already been working at the stables for a few weeks but had yet to take the tourist customers out on one of our three hour long trail rides without the company of my boss. But today was my day. Mind you, I only had one other girl with me and she was a fellow Romanian citizen who frequented the stables on her weekend getaways from the busy city life and to escape the mundane existence of her job away from horses and gypsies and country living, but she was a customer none the less. And I was in charge of leading her out on a trail ride. Just me. All by myself. Oh and did I mention that it was raining?
Nothing prior to this moment in my life had ever seemed to faze me or worry me. Not when I moved to Cairo, Egypt on the day the country erupted into turmoil as it revolted against its leader. I also wasn’t worried for my own safety that unforgettable night in Belgium when I made the mistake of going to a local pub with my younger and shall I say “looser” British co-worker. Nor was I worried when I was warned to avoid the large dogs in Romania with big sticks on their necks as these were known as the vicious shepherd dogs guarding the sheep so severely they had been known to kill unfortunate people wandering the hillside alone.
But I was worried now.
After all, I was riding down a trail I had only ridden on once before when I had first taken the job in Romania.
And I had been riding the trail from the other direction…oh yeah and it hadn’t been raining vampires and gypsies.
Careful not to panic my one and only trail companion-slash-valued customer with the knowledge that I was in fact lost in a Transylvanian forest, I pressed on. To my dismay I was riding one of the horses in training that was just as clueless about the trails as I seemed to be. My plan to just loosen the reins and let the horse guide me home was obviously no longer one of my options since my horse was not only incredibly tall (causing a pleasant effect between my face and the many low hanging branches and leaves) but he was also clumsy. Not that the rain mixing with the forest floor made it any easier for my horse to carry himself for more than a few feet without his hooves slipping in the thick mud.
The thickness of the branches and denseness of the bushes and leaves became too much for the two of us to manage on horseback so I decided the best decision was to dismount and lead the horses through the worst of it and then remount and ride the rest of the way home. Assuming I knew where “home” was, that is.
The rain became worse and worse and my horses metal shoes were sliding in the muck at every hill and steep drop. I was comforted by the fact that the horse my female customer had been saddled with was a veteran of the trails and knew exactly where to put his feet and how to carry his weight as well as hers through the extremities of the conditions. To me that was the most important factor. After all I had never been worried about my own safety while riding an unfamiliar horse. I had fallen off enough times and ended up in the hospital enough times to have learned how to keep my butt in the saddle and help the horse out when it needed help. And boy did my horse need help.
I decided the rain was too much for us to continue to walk so I waited for the girl to remount her horse before I attempted to hop on my own. I had mounted thousands of tall horses in my life, and had always been thankful for my long legs, especially since out in the Transylvanian wilderness there wasn’t a mounting block to be found. However, what I hadn’t counted on was the difficulty of mounting on a tall and nervous horse while the pouring rain created a slippery effect on the leather saddle and slick boots and ski pants I had unthinkingly adorned that morning. After a great length of trying and failing to remount my horse, finally against all odds I managed to pull myself into place.
I had always been great at keeping situations comical and positive so when I decided to be honest to my one and only customer and tell her that I was in fact lost—but not to worry because she would now have one hell of a story to tell her husband when we got back to the barn—all she could do was laugh.
“Usually we charge extra for this,” I turned in my stirrups so I could look the woman in the face as I spoke, “we call it the ‘Adventure Trail Package.’ But since I like you so much this one’s on the house,” I joked and she laughed some more.
I knew the trail that we had come on so instead of risking it any further in the heavy forest and persistence of the rain (since at this point both our light jackets and bare hands were not only soaked to the very core but our entire bodies were frozen to the bone) we decided to simply turn around and go back the way we had come.
Knowing if I dismounted my horse again I surely would not be able to get back on so I decided we would remain seated in the saddle and risk the ride through the low hanging branches and water covered leaves. I joked and laughed with the girl the entire ride home. When we arrived safely at the stables (well after my boss had returned with his customers on their trail and had already driven the streets in panic looking for me) I finally dismounted from my horse. I gave him a big pat and an even bigger hug only to realize for the first time the many leaves that covered not only his mane and his back but the leaves had somehow managed to stick themselves into the crevices of my saddle as well. I also realized just how many leaves were on my own body. I looked to the face of my one and only customer, desperately hoping to see an expression on her face that would be anything other than annoyance, anger or unhappiness with my efforts.
The woman who had been riding with me dismounted from her horse and began to laugh as she realized just how many leaves covered her horse and as well as herself. Her husband raced to her side, and I couldn’t help but worry as he approached his wife, overly happy to see her returning after her brief time missing. The look on my boss’s face as he watched didn’t help my nervousness in the matter. With a big smile stretched on the woman’s face she said to her husband, “Man do I have a story to tell you!”