Friday, March 7, 2008

Keeping the Dream Alive

Welcome to Equestrian Ink, a circle of women with two things on their minds: horses and writing. We come from different places and different states of mind, but our writing spans a wide range of genre within that special niche called "horse fiction." And each of us came to that niche for our own unique reasons.

From the fourth grade on, I'd yearned for a horse. That dream became especially painful when my best friend received a wonderful old Quarter Horse gelding for her eleventh birthday. From then on, I began begging my parents, promising to do anything if I could have a
horse of my own. My stern father grew tired of my pleas and announced that the subject was closed--I could not have a horse.

On family outings, I'd lean my head against the car window and gaze at the magnificent rolling foothills of the Cascade Mountains, drumming a galloping beat with my fingers and picturing myself racing across the fields, leaning into my steed's whipping mane. At home, I'd curl up in the window seat with my horse books. King of the Wind. The Black Stallion. National Velvet. Keeping the dream alive. And I began to write fantastical stories about "my horses."

By the time I turned thirteen, I'd given up hope that my dream would ever come true--I was destined to watch from the sidelines. My friend had joined the local 4-H club and, occasiona
lly, I'd be allowed to go with her. It was my only chance to be near the creatures that made my heart thump and my breath come in tiny puffs. The club leader was a wise old horseman who enjoyed being surrounded by horse-crazed kids, and he always made me feel like I belonged to that elite group.

One Saturday, he took me aside. A friend of his had a horse that needed a good home. Was I interested?

Hope and sorrow--what a combination. I could barely speak the words to tell him I'd been forbidden to bring up the subject at home. He gazed at me
for a minute, then smiled. He'd take care of it. And he did. Two weeks later, Sonny backed out of a horse trailer and swung around to survey his new home.

Undoubtedly the homeliest horse ever foaled, the rangy 16-hand Tennessee Walker had lop ears, rafter hips, and a nose that must have been the model for Roman. But in the eyes of a horse crazy fourteen-year-old girl, he was as magnificent as Black Beauty or the Godolphin Arabian.

From the day Sonny stepped off the trailer, I was determined to convince my father that letting me have a horse had not been a mistake. Twenty years later, he shook hi
s head in amazement as he watched my small band of Arabian mares grazing on the hill.

"I guess you were serious."

Yes, I was.

I haven't owned horses for many years now, but back when I was mucking stalls and carrying water and sleeping in the hay during foal-watch, my imagination was still astride a galloping horse racing across the hills. It was only a matter of time before I had to put those imaginary rides on paper, give them plots and people and loves and troubles.

Thanks to those dreams, I always have a horse in my heart and a story in my head.

Enjoy the ride while you're here!

Toni

Toni Leland
http://www.tonileland.com
Women's Fiction with Kick
at Romancing the Horse

4 comments:

Jami Davenport said...

Toni, I love your story of growing up wanting a horse. How many horse crazy girls are out there with the same story right now. I, too, wasn't allowed to have a horse. My mother thought I'd outgrow it. I never did.

KIT EHRMAN said...

Toni,

Your is such a wonderful story. I love how the club leader treated you as if you belonged and convinced your parents to let you have a horse!

Darragha! said...

Well, I think I should hang here more often! I'm a horse mom (as opposed to a soccer mom). Since I spend so much time at a stable, I've started writing "stable tales!"

Great site.

Darragha

Toni Leland said...

Thanks to all for your nice comments.

Darragha, I too was a horse mom years ago, and many of the hysterical anecdotes will undoubtedly find their way into my fiction, but more likely here on the blog!

Enjoy your visits