I am lucky enough to have been around horses most of my life. My mom used to say I got the bug from one of her relatives (great-uncle maybe?) who rode in the Calvary way way WAY back in the day. As a kid I worked on Saturdays at a nearby barn in exchange for riding lessons. Money? I spit on money. There were HORSES!
As an adult I don’t spit on money. Gross. No. I scrimp on other things like driving an old SUV and limiting my craving for fast food to pay for my horse.
I’ve got the bug and it’s been life-long. This journey has taken me to the highest highs and the lowest lows but it’s been worth every second and changed me for the better. I cannot even imagine what kind of person I’d be if I hadn’t hung out with horses.
My current horse is a Thoroughbred mare (my cousin calls her the lovely Miss P and you can see by the photo why) I’ve had since she was 3. She’s 12 now. I absolutely adore her. But holy hell we went through some trials.
She wasn’t my first horse, thank heavens. Before the lovely Miss P (aka Dolly, Sweet P, or “mare” in a growly voice when she’s being fractious) I rode, bought, trained, and sold a lot of horses. Each one taught me something. For example, a little bay polo mare stopped my habit of leaning forward while asking for a canter because whenever I did that she bucked my ass off. LESSON RECEIVED!
I learned a lot, picked the brains of trainers, went to clinics, studied anatomy, and became better (I hope) with each horse I trained. Perhaps all those other horses were preparation for my eventual forever horse.
In the lovely Miss P’s young days she was spooky and afraid of every noise. Next was her balking phase, where in the middle of trotting or walking or leg-yielding she just stopped and wouldn’t move. That was followed later by bolting and then a long stretch of halfheartedly trying to buck me off at every canter depart, ears pinned and head shaking.
Yeah, I made some mistakes but then I fixed them. And my horse forgave me. That’s another thing about horses that amazes me; they don’t hold grudges. If someone tried to put a saddle on my sore back I’m not sure I’d be so nice.
Horses can feel happy, playful, sad, angry, annoyed, bored, and PMS-y. I can read those expressions on my mare’s face; the tightening of her nostrils in irritation, the droopy lip of contentment, hear it in the soft nicker of hello, the sharper whinny of demand. Dumb animal? Far from it.
It’s been a long journey for us and one that’s been filled with ups and downs, as life usually is. Today, when we ride outside the sound of gunfire in the distance only makes her twitch an ear. She’d still prefer to walk around puddles rather than through them but sighs and does it when I insist. Canter departs are vastly improved – usually :). Balking – gone. Bolting – gone.
It’s like we’re partners. She trusts me to keep her safe and I trust her to do the same.
This is not to say she doesn’t have her whirling/spinning/ohhellno moments because she surely does, they’re just much rarer. Like my own ohhellno moments.
She’s taught me patience and humility. She’s made me laugh in delight and cry in frustration and breathe a sigh filled with awe when we’re so in sync that it’s perfect. It’s hard to describe, this relationship one can have with your forever horse. It changes you. It changed me.
I look before I leap (usually), think before I act (mostly), and pause before reacting (tough one but I try). All because of my horse.
We’re both settling into our years pretty damn nicely, I must say. I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like – life interrupts – but this spring I am squeaking in more barn time wherever I can get it. Because the lovely Miss P – and horses in general if you’re lucky enough to hang with them – reminds me that sometimes blasting off in the pasture with a tail held high because the sun is shining is reason enough.
Life is short – I plan to blast off across the pasture more often.