Back in the saddle in Union Parish

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My husband’s current show “For the Love of Horses,” which has reopened at the Union Museum of History and Art, brings back reflections of my own dealings with horses during childhood.

Certain similarities exist when reviews of his equine paintings are compared with reviews (to use the term loosely) of my youthful experiences. But in other ways, the majesty of Hooshang’s steeds has nothing to do with what happened to a chubby little girl in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Listen to the grandeur of this wording:

“Standouts within the collection … are the equestrian works of Hooshang Khorasani ... These magnificent large-scale acrylics scream ‘undomesticated’ as they roar, head-on across the canvas ... These works are so strong that at a glance one can hear the panting breath and the pounding hoofs of these exotic creatures.” – Excerpt from a gallery talk during the “Four-Footed” exhibit at The Ormond (Florida) Memorial Art Museum.

Now, contrast that description to my own inelegant stories.

I couldn’t have been more than 6 when my sister, Dianne, and I were plopped atop Rocky Branch neighbor Marion Pace’s plow horse. Mike was a big, yet extremely calm creature, so much so that Mr. Marion didn’t even saddle him before he perched me carefully behind Sister. But as Mike ambled forward, I slowly began sliding off – backwards.

I don’t even think I screamed, but I ended up right between the gentle giant’s legs. Thankfully, Mike was smart. He stopped dead in his tracks before any harm could befall me. Hmm … somehow this riding bareback thing didn’t work out quite as I had seen in the Westerns.

A few years passed, the backsliding memory faded, and one day at Aunt Corrie and Uncle Mina Parker’s house in Haile, my horse-riding stars aligned again. My horse-lover sister rode T-Boy first, with absolutely nothing unusual happening. Then I took my turn as this other giant, also allegedly gentle, slowly circled the corral.

I’m not sure what happened, but suddenly, temperate T-Boy broke into a full-scale gallop. I ended up hanging on for dear life, my body perpendicular to T-Boy’s side, parallel to the ground. Ironically, one lasting thing did come from the incident: a new family nickname – “Ol’ Cocklebur.”

You’d think I would’ve had enough of horses by then, but after another couple of years I somehow let our next-door playmates – the older Howard sisters, Karen and Pam – talk me into riding Rexie. I wonder now if it was an evil plot (which none of us were above).

You see, Rexie was a Shetland pony. Such ponies have the reputation of being good-tempered although, as Wikipedia says, they “can also be very … impatient, snappy and sometimes become uncooperative.” I think Rexie got only the latter part of the memo.

Nobody ever told me that horses sometimes bolt when they approach the barn. Or that Rexie had a habit of running up under a particular big, low-hanging limb to try to knock his rider off. Yet I soon discovered both those things. Plus, the ever-so-cute pony stopped, reared up on his front legs and tossed me over his head. I’ve always been grateful I survived without a concussion or broken bones.

I haven’t been on a horse since. But I don’t hold it against them. In fact, I invite you to “For the Love of Horses” to see Hooshang’s equine paintings as well as photos of horses from Indian Creek Thoroughbred Farm in Spearsville. The exhibit opened March 13 but has been unavailable for public viewing since the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect.

Museum exhibits coordinator Jean Jones says the show, originally scheduled through April 24, has now been extended until June 26. Current museum hours are noon-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.

Here’s your chance to mentally take a ride on your pick from a herd of stellar steeds.

Sallie Rose Hollis is a Union Parish native, retired Louisiana Tech associate professor of journalism and Ruston resident. She can be reached via email at sallierose@mail.com.