It seems that I’m becoming more comfortable with embracing challenges these days. With that in mind, I’m embracing the A-to-Z Blogging challenge, by writing about the things that I most closely associate with being alive, when I show up and engage with life as fully as possible.
And with that, I give you:
I won’t tell you how old I am, but I’m celebrating a milestone birthday this year, and I am STILL completely horse mad. I tell people I fell in love with horses around the age of three or four. My father was between assignments and had moved Mum and me to Maine to live with my grandmother while he got things sorted out. The Budweiser Clydesdales were making an appearance in Bangor and Daddy thought it would be kind of cool to go see them. He lifted me up to get a closer look at them and right at that minute, that beautiful dark bay head swung in my direction and knocked me upside the head. I haven’t been the same since.
I rode my first pony at the age of six and then didn’t ride again until Daddy got stationed in England when I was 14. A family friend had a small riding school and I helped out around the stables in exchange for riding lessons. Those were some magical years, let me tell you. Catching ten minutes’ kip in the corner of my favourite mare’s stall on a rainy afternoon while she worked on a hay net tied up in the opposite corner. Walking a filly with colic until the vet could get out to see to her. Chasing a pony across an old air strip after he had ditched his rider. Oh and speaking of escape artists, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a Welsh pony shed bridle, saddle and rider all in one motion at a canter and never miss a step. I watched Alice do it twice and never could figure out how she did it.
A Bedouin legend has it that Allah took a handful of the South Wind and breathed on it to create the horse. “All the treasures of the earth lie between thine eyes.” And who, having looked deeply into the eyes of a horse, can deny the truth of that? “I have given thee the power of flight without wings, whether it be in onslaught or retreat.” I have seen horses fly. The Lippizaners of Vienna with their airs above the ground. The breath-taking performances of Cavalia. Even the show jumpers and eventers I used to follow with a near fanatical obsession – six foot drop into water? No worries. Seven foot wall? Piece of cake.
The thing about horses is that you have to be fully present when working with them. They will not suffer fools or distraction lightly. A horse is a creature of wind and passion and fire and you cannot take any part of it for granted. I don’t romanticize my equine friends at all. I’ve been bitten and thrown more times than I’d care to remember. I respect their strength and their unpredictable nature. But I also know that they are capable of near heroic patience. I know that the love of a horse, once given, is a prize to be treasured.
I think I learned more about how to love from the horses I have known than most of my human relationships. I know I have learned more about restraint and discipline and grace from them. I have learned to recognize beauty in whatever form it takes. The toss of a mane, a duck of a head, a sudden leap into the air and a mad dash across a field. Poetry set in motion. Beauty in movement. It catches my breath every single time.
“God forbid I should go to any heaven where there are no horses.”
– R.B. Cunningham Graham