Round these parts, I’m known as “The Girl” (as in ‘Hay Girl, where’s the foodz?’ — that Mitch, such a crackup) and I’m a genuine bonified dyed-in-the-wool horseaholic and have been even from a very young age.
To be honest nobody in my family is really sure where this horse thing comes from. Technically, my great-great-grandfather was a guy who had horses (and his in-laws were draft horse breeders) but nobody in my immediate family could figure out why I’ve been such an addict about those four-footed hayburners for pretty much most of my life. My mother says the first time I ever sat on a pony at a pony ride I was a year and a half, but I had been quite horse-mad from the start.
Despite not knowing where this obsession with all things Equus came from, my parents were pretty indulgent about opportunities to be around horses, even if it was just a pony ride in the park. Like this place just down the road from where my aunt lived, which was kind of dinky, and so slap-dash crazy, I almost shudder to think what their liability insurance would be like if they were still in business today.
I’ve been riding for a long time. At the risk of dating myself, I’d say I’ve been riding for all of my life minus about 17 months, and that I’m between the ages of 25 and 40 (this is to save myself from having to revise this number continually every year. At this rate, I won’t have to update this section for decades.)
Every chance I got, I wanted to be around horses, and young as I was, maybe my judgement wasn’t always the best, and maybe my parents didn’t know any better, but I’m still grateful that I got the chances that I did.
Pony rides, the occasional little jaunt on a pony that might have belonged to someone who was lucky enough to have one (and earned my intense jealousy) and any opportunity that came up to be around a real life breathing horse, I grabbed for it.
I started riding lessons at a fairly young age, which were pretty informal, since it was a friend of my mom’s who was giving me lessons. I learned the basics, walk, trot … maybe the occasional canter when the ancient pony I was seated upon could be coaxed into a faster gait. It was really informal, as far as riding went, but was enough to give me a pretty good idea of wanting to do more, while at the same time, buffering my parents from having to spend obscene amounts of money to satisfy my habit.
Dad has pretty much been the go-to-guy in my life when it comes to horses. He didn’t know a fetlock from a forelock when I first expressed an interest in wanting to ride all those years ago, and he still doesn’t know a whole lot even to this day (but he’s a great guy who listens when I talk, so maybe he’s picking stuff up.) Even when we’d go on vacation, and I couldn’t have riding lessons, we’d always go places where one could conceivably go riding, even if it was just a nose-to-tail dude string because Dad knew how much horses meant to me.
Eventually, my parents finally decided that I was clearly not going to outgrow this horse “phase” so they signed me up for real lessons and Pony Club, which was to me, utterly fantastic. Finally, an excuse to gush about horses with other people, and to eat, live, breathe, think and be horse without being treated like some crazy loon. I started learning how to ride in a way that seemed more than just plunking around and around, and started learning to do amazing things, like jumping, dressage, and even did some cross-country. And I learned more about aids, and using my seat and legs, and my reins more effectively.
Of course, my parents didn’t know what they were really in for by letting me join Pony Club and do real lessons, because sooner or later (sooner, MUCH sooner) in my case, it led to the inevitable Horse-of-My-Own Syndrome, and that’s how my big red heart horse came into my life. His name was Flair (his show name was Leapin Lizard). I had him for 12 years and did Pony Club with him, and showed, and still rode him even after I stopped showing. I had to put him down in 2007 due to colic which was a very traumatic experience for me. My world had essentially collapsed, and I was in tatters, the center had gone out of my life and it almost hurt too much to go on.
Thanks to the generosity of a few barn friends who let me ride their horses for a few weeks after the passing of my beloved Flair, I was able to get my head back in the game, and my love for horses won out, especially since I knew that I would have done a grave disservice to the horse that had taught me so much by letting his death be the end-all for my riding career.
A month after Flair died, I started leasing a little black mare. Yes, that little black mare. And I started writing this blog, which has seen it’s share of ups and downs, but I certainly hope we’re always on an upward trend as often as we can be, and that there are many more adventures that lie ahead.