When I was a kid, I was horse mad. It's the rare girl who isn't horse mad, actually - it seems we're hard wired to love the beasts on sight, even when they bite, kick, throw us, or step on our feet and lean. We love them despite the smell and the copious amounts of fecal matter we have to shovel up when they leave it lying around, and despite them blowing snot on us, farting shamelessly, and the insane amount of hay, grain, and water we have to give them to keep body and soul together...not to mention the apples, carrots, bread, sugar cubes, and corn husks and cobs they crave for snacks. Hmm...maybe it's nature's way of getting us ready for guys. I kid, I kid! Mostly...
Some girls never grow out of their horse crazy phase. I'm one of those. I love them with a madness that is immeasurable, and one of the things I miss most from my not-fat-not-always-broke days is riding. I learned English but switched to Western when I discovered the joys of the trail ride - I was always tall (topping out at five foot, ten inches), and riding for miles with my knees in my teeth wasn't much fun. I liked the free and easy feel of Western riding, the more substantial saddle, the feeling of security that I had when I could drop my heels down and feel myself rooted in that saddle. Jumping in a western saddle was right out, but my cousin C was the jumper, the better horsewoman all around, not me. I was terrified of real jumping, never going much higher than the cavaletties (sp??) that my instructor insisted I try on a regular basis. I just like riding along at an amble, communing with nature and the horse and generally achieving a sort of equine-enhanced Zen state.
The two worst almost-falls I ever had were on trail rides, and I came out of both incidents better off than the horse did. That was thanks to my English training, when it was really important to know how to come out of a saddle - those stirrups are short, one's balance is all off-kilter, and it's all so...insecure. I was glad enough for the training, though, because I could turn a bad fall into a controlled dismount even when the horse was suddenly subject to a gravity-well and untied shoelaces, or fairies, or whatever made them jump, stumble, and fall.
I miss all of that, even the shovelling of shit and the occasional buck, rear, shy, or fall. I miss the smell of horse, leather, saddle soap, barn, and sweat. I miss the creak of the leather, the sigh and snort of the animal, and the slow, gentle sough of my legs being rubbed raw because I wore absolutely the wrong pants for a trail ride. Oops.
I've been told I can ride, even now, because horses can carry a lot of weight...but honestly? I can just see the horses rolling their eyes and trying to fake a limp when they see me come walking into the stable. I can't make some poor critter haul my fifty-acre...umm...make that forty-eight acre...ass around a ring, let alone on a trail. I'll wait. It's one of the...ahem...carrots I am holding out to myself to continue losing weight.
What made me think of all this? Several things, actually, a kind of serendipity or synchronicity, if you will - I just finished reading a book about a woman who runs away from her husband to live on a horse farm, where she trains for Dressage (among other adventures), an article in National Geographic from a month or so ago, about Mustangs and the BLM's herd management techniques, and the horse trailer I followed for a few miles last night that had the bumper-sticker reading "My horse is smarter than you honor student" on the rear door.
I watched as little girls craned their necks to see the horses in the trailer, straining to catch a glimpse as they rode in the back seat of their parent's cars, following with their eyes for as long as they could before they had to turn back around or were out of sight. I actually slowed down so I wouldn't block one girl's view, a gesture of Universal Sisterhood in All Things Equine.
I just remembered one of life's great cruelties - I loved horses but was an adequate rider at best. Big Brother was indifferent to the animals, and he could have ridden for the Olympics, he was that good. Sigh. Life can be so unfair.
Horsin' Around - some horsey links to feed the madness:
Unwanted Horse Coalition - they do good work.
The Pinto Horse Association - because I learned to ride on the orneriest Pinto on the planet, and I loved her.
Horse Types of the World - an invaluable site if you can't tell a Paint from a Palomino. I have used this site extensively while researching for stories. If I ever make a million, I'll thank them with presidential portraits in green, but for now, a link on my blog will have to do.
An finally, a link to the online version of the National Geographic story about Mustangs. I admit, I got a bit weepy when I read the anecdote that began the article...sniff...
Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!
"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
For old quotes, look here.
For old quotes, look here.