I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t infatuated with them. My first memory of being around real, live horses was when I was probably 3 or 4 and there were horses in a pasture behind the sports field where my brother played soccer. Some of the older siblings would go back there to the fence and the horses would come up. I remember being just amazed at them. And throughout my entire childhood, horses were my obsession. We didn’t have the means or resources to have one for quite a long time, so I settled for Breyers and watching them in movies and on TV (ETA: and reading about them and looking at pictures of them in books, and drawing them, and writing my own stories about them). But eventually the day came when we found out about a place to take riding lessons and at 13, my parents agreed. Now, my mother had horses growing up, and my grandmother was a horse lover as well, so I do think it was maybe in my blood as well. But needless to say, after my first riding lesson, I was hooked, and “the barn” became my world. About a year later, I had my first horse (a totally inappropriate choice, but we learned together and became quite the dressage/eventing duo in a few years). On my 15th birthday (celebrated at “the barn” of course), when it was time to blow out my candles, I paused for a long while. When asked what was wrong, I said, “I don’t know what to wish for. The thing I’ve wished for as long as I can remember is standing out there in the pasture.” My mom nearly cried. (I wound up wishing to win a blue ribbon at our first show, and darn if we didn’t! First class!)
In March I’ll turn 50. I haven’t been horseless since that first horse. I owned my own farm for 20 years and have had several horses and a few of them I count as beloved family members. I sold my farm when two of my “lifers” crossed the rainbow bridge leaving me with one horse and too much farm to care for. I moved to “town” and have found the perfect place to keep him (after a couple of years at not-so-perfect places).
Horses are part of who I am. I could list all of the shows and accolades I’ve won over the years, but when it comes down to it, none of that really explains what horses mean to me. Because it’s never been about that. Sure, it was fun, and I was always proud of my horses and myself when we competed successfully. But at the end of the day, win or lose, I loved those horses. Red, Tigger, Calvin, Cooper, and Milton aren’t just animals that I owned and rode. They are a part of who I am. I learned so much from them. Things only a horse could’ve taught me.
I’ve said that Milton (who is now 15) will be my last horse. I’m pretty sure I’ll stick to that. He’s family, just like the others named above were. Once he’s gone (and hopefully that won’t be for at least another 15 years) I’ll be in my 60’s and probably ready to retire from teaching high school. I’ll need to cut back financially, and the horse is certainly expensive. So, while it makes sense to me right now, I do wonder what it’ll be like to be horseless. It’s not something I can wrap my head around because it’s been so long since I’ve experienced it. Maybe I’ll start collecting Breyers again, LOL.