Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Age of Hindsight (Part II)

When my parents purchased our little “farm-et” in the 80s, they knewthey wanted to fill its barn with horses. My dad grew up with significantacreage where quarter horses, Tennessee Walkers, an American Saddlebred and a pony roamed free, constrained onlyby a by a fence that rimmed the perimeter of the property and cattleguards that stretched across the driveway entrance. While my dad wasliterally surrounded by horses, my mom grew up in the suburbs with a yard barelylarge enough for a dog to roam. It was only in her dreams and the occasionalriding lessons that she was united with horses.

And so, when they bought their own seven acres in the country, itwas my mom’s long repressed childhood desire coupled with my dad’s familiaritythat led to the eventual purchase of their own ponies and horses for our stalls.I even had my own pony, Dusty, a stubborn and pudgy Shetland thatdid her best to kick, bite and puff up her belly while saddling her up – anythingto prevent the inevitable chore of exercise.

With Dusty, 1997 (age 10)
At first, I shared my mom’s passion for riding. In the fall, after thecorn stalks had been cut and fields were left barren for the season, we’d venture out into the corn field behind our property, galloping in circles, racing andparading about.

But as I got older, my interest waned and I picked up other hobbies. Andthen, one day, while again riding in the corn field, Dusty took off in a fullsprint, ignoring my every attempt to slow her. While we’d galloped across thisfield many times, I had always been in control. But this time, Dusty wouldn’tstop. The primary rule of riding horses is to never let them know you’rescared, but with Dusty racing on, I couldn’t stop the fear or the tearsfrom coming. By the time my mom and her pony caught up, I begged to end the ride for the day.

Years later, I got back in the saddle to ride the family Quarter Horse,Risa with my sister and her new Breeding Stock Paint. Despite a few years of not riding, I quickly settled back in to the cadence of moving in sync with a horse. Before long, my sister and I were racing each other around the pasture,each time nearly clipping each other as we bounded around corners neck and neck.We were about to call it a day, but decided to race just once more beforeretiring.
My sister on Duchess, Dad on Jazz (Breeding Stock Paint)

As Risa and I sprinted across the final stretch, Iheard my sister call for help from behind. I turned to see her riding parallel tothe ground, her saddle slipped off to the side. The loose girth strapsent her horse into a frenzy, kicking and rearing as my sister worked to freeher feet. When she finally broke loose, she collapsed onto the ground, snappingher wrist and narrowly escaping the horse’s hooves.

I was busy with other hobbies and activities so I didn't have much idle time, but the two frightening experiences did deter me from riding. The rest of my family, however, continued to ride until they eventually sold allthe horses when my sister left for college. I didn’t think much of the horsesleaving our pastures, and I wasn’t even too jarred to learn that Dusty (the stubborn Shetland) had passed away just a few months after moving to a new home.

But for Christmas this year, my boyfriend purchased a Five Brooks Stables trail ride for us. At first I dismissed the outing as an afternoon sitting on lethargic and overfed horses as they ambled along in tethered circles or walked along well beaten path. It was his first time on a horse, and I was surprised to feel the excitement welling up within me as I guided him around the paddock, instructing him on how to move behind horses, how to read their body language and identifying the different breeds.

My boyfriend Jeff at Five Brooks Stables
Surprisingly, our guide was more liberal with the pace than expected, even allowing us to break out in a canter a few times. It wasn't the free range galloping I'd had access to as a kid, but it was just enough to awaken the passion I'd once had as a little girl.

Earlier, I posted the first part of "The Age of Hindsight," sharing my anguish for not having taking advantage of access to golf lessons as a child. Here again, as an adult, I'm remorseful that I only now appreciate horseback riding when it's an expensive novelty. Now that I have the freedom to make my own choices, I ironically am circling back to the same activities my parents had placed at my fingertips as a little girl.

Perhaps it's consequence of maturity or the lack of daily access, but finally, years later, my fears have subsided and I can't wait to get back on the horse again.

Back in the Saddle by Aerosmith on Grooveshark

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