Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Lifetime with Horses

Hi everyone,

Through all the years I’ve been a rider my skill level has increased, but oddly enough, the height of the jumps keeps going down. I remember as a child pointing whichever horse I was riding at a jump with exhilarated abandon. The cross-country course at my neighborhood barn growing up had a stone wall with a 3 foot drop on one side, large fallen trees set up as jumps, and tight turns including one low hanging branch I remember running into and seeing stars! Still, I found cross-country a joyful excursion.

I will never forget Richie, the barn owner’s old hunter. He was a gentle, very willing fellow who took excellent care of me. Some of my happiest memories are of jumping around on Richie, grooming him until the poor fellow probably though his coat would fall out, or just standing with him in his stall. I would stroke his nose and cuddle the wonderful guy who kept me safe when my whims took us over jumps of a size which make my heart bump in my chest when I think of them now.

In young adulthood, when I had funds to buy my own horse and could train more extensively, I found a growing reluctance to take the big fences. I loved the closed in setting of the sand ring and happily did all the necessary flat work, gridwork, and small courses necessary to build my skill level. However, when my trainer would hoist the rails up, I felt a tightening in my stomach which had never been there in childhood. With the knowledge and experience of adulthood had come fear. Useful, certainly, in some of life’s situations, but not in a lesson where the trainer’s voice ruled and a very solid looking jump loomed before me. Still, I jumped and in time would adjust to a new height. I was lucky, too, that both my horses had talent to bail Mom out when the nerves took over!

Now with three small children, I don’t find nearly the time I would like for riding, but have moments in my day where I wish for the wonderful sensation of a horse beneath me and the calm joy of feeling that togetherness with an equine friend. At the same time, the thought of jumping and training, as essential as breathing through most of my adulthood, doesn’t hold the same thrill it always had. I’m happy just to be around a barn, grooming a pony for my daughter to ride, or hacking in the ring on a quiet fellow just for relaxation. Perhaps this change has to do with the knowledge that our crazy household would barely survive Mommy in a cast, or perhaps it’s just the natural changes life brings, but I’ve changed nonetheless.

What hasn’t changed is the serenity I feel being around horses, writing about them, and sharing the joy of the horse world with my daughter. Life does unerringly move on, and growth and change are inevitable, but I’m fortunate to be able to use my memories and experiences to bring life and depth to my stories. I may no longer ride with the abandon of youth, but some of my characters do. If I’m currently identifying with my more, shall we say, seasoned characters, that’s alright. The flavor of a lifetime of experiences adds its own spice to my day, and hopefully to my writing.

Happy trails, whichever path you and your mount choose to take!

All the best,



Laura Crum said...

I can really relate to this post as I, too, no longer compete at cutting and team roping but spend most of my horseback time on fairly sedate trail rides with my 7-year-old son. The happiness I feel as we cruise through the hills and I watch his face light up when we successfully negotiate a new trail is as great as anything I've experienced in a lifetime of training, owning and competing on my horses. I guess its a mom thing (!)

Mary Paine said...

Hi Laura,

You're absolutely right. Being a horse mom is great.