Sunday, July 4, 2010
Early this morning I was hanging three pairs of freshly washed jodhpurs out on the washing line to dry. Suddenly, the heavy horses across the road (who pull a special wagon for local garbage collection – I wrote about them in an earlier post) began thundering around their field, kicking up their heels, squealing and generally having a wonderful time. What did I do? I did what any other horse-gaga person would have done. I rushed to the top of the garden, opened the gate, and stood watching their wonderful display of grace and power with a giant smile on my face, goose-bumps erupting all over my body. My throat constricted, I may even have brewed a couple of tears. Neighbors shot me strange looks as they drove past me in their cars. Well, yes, I suppose I must have looked rather odd, standing there gazing at the horses in my pjs, a cheesy grin stretched across my face. Anyway, the horses settled down after a while, going back to grazing and swatting flies, so I pottered back to the laundry room looking forward to tackling the fascinating task of sorting through divorced socks.
That’s when the questions started niggling at me. What is it about horses? Why do they do…well, what they do to me? Where did this passion come from? What prompted it?
I can fully comprehend an inherited passion for horses. It makes sense for horse-mad people to pass the equestrian torch from one generation to the next. There’s good imagery in the French expression “il (or « elle ») est tombé dedans quand il était petit”, which translates to “he (or she) fell in when he (or she) was small”, and applies to the likes of show-jumping superstar Rodrigo Pessoa, or to members of the Whitaker clan. These people were probably, quite literally, riding before they could walk. It also seems logical that children born into horse-loving families might develop an interest in horses; my daughter, Olivia, definitely caught the horse bug from me.
But where did I catch the horse bug? My parents were never particularly interested in horses. They never felt the need to stroke a suede-velvet nose, or enjoyed running their fingers through a long, thick, waxy-tough tail. They weren’t particularly fond of that unique, musky-sweet horsey scent. They didn’t tear up watching movies such as International Velvet, or The Black Stallion. Sure, they’ve always thought horses are beautiful, they’re not scared of them, and have enjoyed patting the ones I’ve been associated with over the years. But that’s as far as it goes. In no way did they encourage my horse-craziness; my mother didn’t specifically choose bedtime stories revolving around horses. During weekend outings, we never went out of our way to go and look at horses, although if we happened to see any as we drove by, my parents would always point them out to me.
I have a vivid memory of my father slowing the car down as we passed a horse and rider on a country road. I must only have been about five or six, but I can still remember him winding down the window to say hello to the rider, asking if his horse was friendly. The man was definitely friendly! I remember how he bent down to talk to us, how he laughed, telling my father his horse was “très très gentil”. I remember how he waved at me, bright-eyed and flat-nosed against the back window. I remember him asking me if I’d like to have a ride on his “gentil cheval”. Of course, he was probably joking, and I was far too overwhelmed to take him up on his invitation. Yet as crazy as it sounds, forty-odd years later, I still regret not taking him up on that spontaneous proposition!
Was this my “ah-ha” horsey moment? Was I contaminated by the horsey-bug during that chance encounter? To be perfectly honest, I think I was born with it. But as it’s my first ultra-vivid horse memory, I can’t help thinking that that friendly man had something to do with my childhood obsession, my teenage fervor, my lifetime passion. Call me mushy, but I wish there was a way for me to let him know!
So, tell me. When were you first smitten?