by Laura Crum
I was thrilled to be pregnant. Neither my husband nor I had ever had a child, we were getting older (I was 42 and he was 49), and we really wanted a baby. At our respective ages it wasn’t that likely—without technical intervention, which we weren’t inclined to—so it seemed like a real gift. And I immediately resolved not to ride until the baby was born.
This doesn’t mean that I think pregnant women shouldn’t ride. I just wanted to do everything possible to protect my unborn child at my advanced age. I gave Danny, the colt I had been training, to a friend. My old friend Wally was still riding and roping on Flanigan and Plumber, so they were getting plenty of exercise. And Gunner and Burt were turned out to pasture.
Once again, I took a break from riding. I still fed my horses and saw them every day and I still loved them. In fact, I began to discover an interesting truth. The thing I enjoyed most about horses was not riding. It was living with them. This didn’t mean I wasn’t interested in riding any more. It just meant that I had come one step further in understanding my path with horses.
Because I found that seeing my horses many times every day, feeding them and turning them out to graze, made me happy and content even though I wasn’t riding. I puttered around the garden, and I puttered around with my horses, and I waited for my baby to come and I was happy. I was aware that I was happy and this knowledge stood me in good stead, because having a baby wasn’t at all what I had expected it to be like.
I had thought that the baby would be sort of an adjunct to our lives. My husband and I would do more or less as we had always done, the baby would just come along, too. But it wasn’t like that at all.
I was unprepared for the fierce rush of maternal love, the absolute realization that I would do ANYTHING to protect and care for this little creature. If I had been asked, while I was pregnant, if I planned to give up riding for the next few years (or at least riding without a kid in the saddle with me) I would have said, “No, of course not.” But that is more or less what happened.
This blog is about horses, not babies, and this saga is supposed to be about my life with horses, not my life with my child. But if you are to understand why my life with horses became the life that I have today, you will need to understand how I chose to parent my child…and why. I absolutely don’t blame you if you find this boring and not relevant, especially if you don’t have kids. Feel free to click that little “x” now.
But, anyway, from the day of my son’s birth, the one main thing I wanted of life was to take the best possible care of my little boy. I’m not going to argue parenting styles here, but I will say that my own path became the “attachment parenting” path. I nursed my baby until he weaned himself (at 18 months), we slept in a family bed, and I carried my little guy in a sling and then later in a backpack, everywhere I went. I stayed home with him and took care of him (and this is one of the benefits of being an author—working at home was already my path). This is, I think, a wonderful way to raise a child, and I was very happy, but I did not find much time to ride. To be honest, riding wasn’t very high on my priority list.
But I still had my horses and I still loved them. I carried my baby down the hill to feed every morning and evening. He grew up around horses. And when my little guy was six months old, I climbed up on my beloved Flanigan and took my baby for his first ride. After that I rode once in awhile—always at the walk and with my little boy sitting in front of me, always on Flanigan.
Sadly, when my son was three years old, Flanigan died of an inoperable colic. He was the first of my “forever” horses to die and the first horse to die on my place. He is buried here…and I still miss him. I feel that his spirit both protects and guides me, however odd that may sound.
After this I took my little boy for rides on Plumber. And we progressed to trotting and then loping. My son loved to ride. I think now that I should have put a helmet on my child, but I was confident in myself and my horses, and to be fair, we never had any problems. We rode a couple of times a week, in my riding ring or up at the arena, always with friends. For five years I rode only in arenas, at a relaxed walk/trot/lope. I can’t remember that I ever once rode without my child in the saddle with me in all those years. And no, I was not bored. I was happy. Plumber packed us like a champ until my son was five years old and just too big to ride comfortably in front of me any more.
It was time for my boy to have a horse of his own. And thus came Toby.
The saga begins here.
I wrote Moonblind about being pregnant and Chasing Cans about having a nursing baby. Click on the titles to find the Kindle editions.
Both of these books have lots of horses in them, but perhaps a tad less action than when my protagonist was single. What can I say? My life had a tad less action in it once I became a mama. I did my best to keep both mysteries exciting and still be faithful to the reality of motherhood. I really love these books, but I think that those who are mothers themselves are more likely to appreciate them than those who are not. The absolute truth is that I loved (and still love) being a mama, but it is not a life that “sounds” as exciting as my earlier life training and competing on horses. The fact that this part of my life with horses has actually been the most rewarding and interesting part to me is something you may have to take on trust (or perhaps my novels can portray this emotion more clearly than I can convey it in a blog post).