She arrived in this world with an irrational desire to be around equines—marked with the horse craze as indelibly as her right flank was birth-branded by a brown oval the size and color of a pony dropping.
She became one of those girls, wild-haired, lightly holding the ends of her handgrip tassels as if they were bridle reins, perfectly balanced on the bicycle seat as her legs moved her forward. The girl who trotted—knees pulled up high—around the yard and galloped through the woods with a branch held close to keep herself from balking at a log that must be jumped. The girl who nickered and whinnied whether alone or traveling with a pack of friends.
A girl whose voice was often answered by real horses.
I was that girl. I had a collection of porcelain horses that stood sentry on their long, glue-seamed legs—gifts from family near and far. I groomed the white-flocked horse my grandmother had given me twice a day, wiping his coat smooth with tiny strokes and combing out his silken tail. I tied a shoelace halter around his face and used a toothpick on his tiny hooves.
Dad brought home books about horses which I augmented with trips to the library. I read Black Beauty, The Black Stallion series, and all of Marguerite Henry’s books. Mom let us watch Roy Rodgers, My Friend Flicka, and The Lone Ranger. And when I turned seven, they took me into the Bronx for my first riding lesson.
I did well enough to earn birthday lessons for the next few years. Meanwhile, when my Nana came to fetch me from school for a weekend at her place, she would drop me at the barn to ride while she ran errands.
My Dad’s cousin Tommy—an artist—would bring me art supplies and books on how to draw horses. I drew and drew and drew.
By the time I was on my own, I could ride just about anything, and horse owners would tell me, “Come ride whenever you want.”
At some point, I started earning money. I groomed race horses and breeding farm yearlings and picked up a few backyard gigs where I would show up with my gear and school a green horse. I bought and trained my first horse when I was thirty-three and began giving riding lessons on him. And I worked as a jungle guide and a wrangler.
Most recently, I’ve been working with Buddy and Gallen—Olivia and Allen’s horses—each a joy to ride and becoming more responsive to weight cues each week. Step hard into one stirrup, and they swing into an arc. Step into both, and they stop and stand at ease. My goal, as always, is to have little need for reins.
When I took up with Bob, he stepped willingly into my horse-crazy world. We rode the packed-earth county roads together after work or took out at dusk to lay back across our horses, scanning the dark sky for meteorites. We’d ride twenty miles searching for wild asparagus and, once, we galloped into town to ride in the Corn Roast Parade.
We picked up a used endurance saddle at a tack sale the other day, the first saddle we’ve owned in twenty-five years.
Bob plans on using it on Gallen, Allen’s gray Percheron cross. I picture us riding together down pine-shaded trails and cantering across Allen’s hay fields.
Each time I place my hand on a horse, I feel at home, centered, and appeased. It’s good when you find a way to express your passion and, even better, to share it with your best friend.
For a peek into our many equine encounters, check out our Horse Album.