Saddle seat philosophy comes up short

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

Joe was the horse our family and the Price family bought jointly in the early 70’s. The seasoned stallion never won any beauty contest or races, but he was a gentle old creature we loved and spent many hours astride.

Although we boarded Joe at a barn on the outskirts of the city, our two families had to provide feed and keep his stable clean.

A great story evolved regarding the care of dear Joe. When the Prices would call and say Joe needed some feed, according to Mr. Price we’d say, “Well, that’s your half of the horse.”

Then Joe’s stable would need cleaning. Mr. Price would call informing us of that bit of bad news and our reported response was, “But that’s your half of Joe.”

“Which half of Joe do you own?” Mr. Price supposedly asked one day in exasperation.

And he says we replied, “The half in the middle where the saddle fits.”

Of course, we don’t exactly remember coming right out and saying that; but to be honest, we probably felt that way. And maybe we acted that way at times. Anyhow, Mr. Price was patient with us and our families are still best of friends—in spite of Joe, horse feed and stable manure.

I guess if the truth is admitted, many of us live out our lives in home, community and job with our saddle-seat philosophy. We take our stands in life right in the middle, wanting only to sit in the saddle, avoiding both ends that demand investment and work.

And why not? There is comfort when we are seated in the saddle. With little work or maintenance, we can enjoy our view and position.

There is also control when we are perched on a saddle. We can steer our course with a simple nudge of the knee. Or we can relax, park our reins and reflect on our power.

Ironically, the saddle-seat philosophy enjoys a lofty approach to life that forgets the realities necessary to nourish and maintain the very life that supports the saddle.

Granted, maintaining either end of that saddle seat is laborious, unpleasant, time-consuming and not particularly fulfilling.

Yet life is made up of all three. Somebody must make investments to insure food is available. Sometimes our families would drive over the countryside for hours to locate farmers who would sell us hay for Joe.

And somebody has to clean the stable. There are many unpleasant tasks in this business called life. No one has the right to impose all stable work on another person.

It simply boils down to this: If you want to enjoy sitting in the saddle, then you have to buy and load hundreds of pounds of feed into the barn. And then you have to be willing to grab a pitchfork, shovel and clean the stable.

Then, and only then, can you justly throw on the saddle and ride over the countryside with the wind in your face and heavy cares behind you.