Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Horse People: Part One - A Whole Different Breed

When I was a little girl, on my elementary school playground there were a small group of girls and every recess and every lunch every day they would play horses. They would flop their long hair to one side and trot around the billy goat bridge in circles; their right legs shimmying ahead as though it were their lead leg, neighing and whinnying in their new pink spring splash suits. I thought they were so weird. It was well known that they all either had horses or horseback rode. They were horse people.

We moved into the house my parents still live in the week I turned five. There was a large fenced in field across from it then and horses would pasture there for the summer. Every day over summer break we would run across the road and stand on the gate as it swayed back and forth, holding our hands out to display carrots and apples; our thumbs stretched backward, protecting them from being bitten like our mother had warned us to. I loved feeding the horses but was also very afraid of them. I remember a few occasions where I had the opportunity to enter the field with the woman who owned it and I was sure that the horses would trample me.

Later on in elementary school, my best friend's mom would bring us to the stable where she boarded her horse Maidy and would get us to help her lead the horses here and there. She would bark commands to us in a way that assumed we knew what we were doing. I can remember very vividly walking sideways so that I could watch their legs at all times to prevent being stepped on and crushed. It was around this time that I found out that my mother had had a horse too. I had always known that she loved horses. She had horse pins and earrings and pendants in her jewelry box, she had carved horse book ends in the chest of collectibles and keepsakes, and she always jumped at the chance to work at the annual horse show down the road. I had always made a correlation between horses and money and I don't think that anyone ever had to make the connection for me. I guess it was just obvious to me that caring for such a large animal would have to be expensive. It was for this reason that I was very surprised to find out that my mom had had a horse named Shannon who was killed when they were riding alongside a dirt road when they were struck by a drunk driver.

I would never have considered myself a horse person. My limited experience with them had ignited an intense curiosity but without any access to them, and some lingering fears, my curiosity would go unexplored until I was an adult. Throughout all of these experiences and others, I would notice one theme. People who were around horses any amount seemed to be obsessed with them. And not like one gets about just any sport or interest; they would go absolutely insane about them. Just like the girls on the playground, they were horse people. A whole different breed.

Me, at about 4 years old

Mom and Shannon, 1972