In riding a horse, we borrow freedom- Helen Thompson
As I was checking out at the grocer recently the clerk asked, seemingly out of nowhere, what kind of horses I have. My face begged to know the reason for her query as I answered and she smiled knowingly, explaining that I clicked my tongue to call my children closer. We all know the sound, don’t we? This horse thing runs deep and through everything. We all know how annoying hay is when it gets in our clothes and that horse snot happens. We recognise the brands no one else knows, the wear lines on our boots, the reason for stage makeup and a bun on a weekend or the dirt on the inseam of our jeans. I see you, too.
I want my kids to be part of this community of ours.
We come in so many flavors and varieties, those of us who have both horses and humans, and yet there is this thread running through all of us, binding us together.
When I was a kid, I was incredibly blessed to have parents who had been invested in the horse world for many years. They showed, they bred for quality and my mother was a well regarded judge for several breeds.
I didn’t fit in in school, but I had my horse and my horse family. Even when my human family had problems, I had the horses and the horses brought us together again.
We groomed, we mucked, we trained, we swapped tack, we trail rode, we showed, we worked in the elements and we had community.
We heard “heels down” thousands of times (at least until we started dressage) and “elbows in” until it we could no longer do it any other way.
We learned to feel for the lead and grab the right diagonal before most kids could ride a bike without training wheels.
It took work. I tried to avoid a good bit of it but you could bet that colic could get me walking in any weather, at any time of day or night, for hours on end. Nothing was too much to help a horse.
We got up obscenely early for shows, stayed up incredibly late getting packed, slept in tack stalls and wore coats and hats (and leather gloves!) in 100 degree heat on the back of an animal that was sharing its body heat with us. We tried, we won, we lost, we cried, we sucked it up. We put our dreams in the hands of an animal. We were with them when they learned to cross rivers and they were with us when we learned to jump. If one of us was injured we were both injured. We learned about trust, for the better and worse, but mostly for the better.
And now it is my turn to teach my children.
I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m not sure I’m up for this.
How can I pull off what my parents did for us?
Am I remembering it all? Am I too easy on them? Am I too demanding?
The cost, my God, the cost…
It is more stressful on the parenting side of this equation, isn’t it?
I now realize that my mom rarely had time to ride because of it all. I’m in the same boat.
And then I find them out helping each other get on bareback just to graze their horse in the yard and it is all worth it.
I find my daughter resting her face against her horse while he eats or my son sharing his watermelon with his and my heart swells.
Anything I have put in is worth it in that moment and everything I haven’t been able to do is okay.
And it is okay for you, too, wherever you fit in the family of horse parents.
We all provide what we can.
They will have their own relationships and lessons with horses. Their stories don’t have to be exactly what mine were for them to experience the blessings of the horse community. This tribe is large but intimate. And I choke back tears at seeing my children join.
But what truly horsey girls discover in the end is that boyfriends, husbands, children, and careers are the substitute-for horses- Jane Smiley