I could say I love horses, but that would be grossly inaccurate.
Saying I love horses is like saying, the ocean is damp. A gargantuan understatement.
I can remember riding the first pony I was able to call my own. Squirt was brown and stubborn. I was maybe five. Years later, a friend of ours was looking for a place to board her horse and since I was older, she felt he would be a good fit for me. He was a buckskin named Sir Twirp – and he was a Twirp, with a choppy gait, but he was fun. But he wasn’t mine. Neither was Pip, his stable mate and a lovely, kind and generous mount. He was perfect for me to learn how to show in the ring. He knew more than I did. But, sigh, he wasn’t mine.
Willow was mine.
He was a retired Thoroughbred whose coat glowed red when he was spiffed up. Looking at him was like looking at the sun. Sitting on him was like being on top of the world. I looked down at everyone else. I’m sure he’s the reason I’m drawn to tall horses. He was beautiful and strong and faster than a tween had any business riding. He probably could have killed me and almost succeeded when we were at a fair and he caught an eyeful of the gravel track that surrounded the fair grounds. He took off so fast, and so hard, that he could have given me whiplash. If it wasn’t for the quick thinking of a horse-savvy bystander, I may have grown up in Texas. He pulled his head down and kept him from leaving the fair grounds.
But Willow had health issues and needed more care than we were able to provide. It was decided to sell him, and also decided not to tell me – likely in hopes of avoiding the fit I would have pitched. Finally one day a truck and trailer arrived with some people I vaguely knew. I was sent to my room where I had the mother of all break downs. I could see the paddock from my bedroom window. I could see the new owner reach across and snap her lead on Willow’s halter. I remember yelling and crying so hard that I pressed my head into the window for counter pressure and ended up with a lovely crease in my forehead.
And anyone who knows me knows this; I. Don’t. Cry. Like I watched Old Yeller and didn’t cry. Like I can watch The Notebook and not cry. But put on The Horse Whisperer, and I have to have a moment. I don’t even know if I can buy a copy of War Horse because the scene in No Man’s Land is the only time I’ve ever cried in a theatre.
It took a while to get over Willow, but when I was older, and my parents felt I was more capable of caring for a horse, we tried again. We bought an Appaloosa filly and named her Darlin. She’s the one who planted me in a stone pile, but she was the sweetest thing otherwise. I worked with her for months to make her gentle; got her used to be handled and help put weight on her before it was time to get her under the saddle. I learned a lot about relating to horses, which I feel helped me later on when it came to relating to people. It helped me realize I like horses more.
When we left the farm, Darlin was sold, but I kept my tack. It would have been easy enough to sell it at our auction, but the idea of cutting all aspects of horse from my life was too much to bear. One day, I told myself, I’ll have a horse again.
Since then I’ve been blessed with very generous friends. They have invited me to go for rides (Thank you KW!) and even allowed me to roll around in their pasture fields to enjoy quality time with their equine (Thank you SH!) and I look forward to even more new babies with an upcoming session, (Hopefully next week SS?) Being around horses fills a piece of my soul. I actually have a physical reaction; tightening of the chest, faster pulse, a sense of contentment that is difficult to describe. I’m home. I watch old friends show horses in the local fall fair. I get the same overwhelming desire to grab a saddle and bridle and find the nearest bareback. It’s the smell of leather, of horse.
My boys know how much I love horses. Second Born Son, on one of our recent road trips, asked me as he admired a field of mommas and their babies; “Why don’t you just go out and buy a horse, Mom?”
I explained to him that owning a horse isn’t like buying a new toy or a lawn mower. Even buying a dog is less of a commitment. A horse relies on you every day. If you don’t feel like walking the dog, he’ll wait until later, but a horse needs you regardless of how you feel. There are no holidays. That aspect of my life is already tapped out. I want to be a great mom and wife, daughter, sister, friend and employee. There’s not much left of me after all of that.
Then there is the matter of cost. While I certainly don’t want my children to feel I am “doing without” because of them, the fact is there are priorities in my life and a luxury like making good on a childhood promise isn’t up there right now. It’s not say that it never will be.
I’m just more focused on their childhood memories.
Until then, I’ll rely on the kindness of friends for my horsey fix!