Hey, it's wordy Wednesday again. "Moosefield" sent in her thoughts. Her story is long enough I'll just post the one. Hey Redsmom...Can I publish your reining saga? I love it and appreciate your ability to laugh at yourself.
I want to let everybody know posting is going to be tough for awhile, I'm going to keep writing as I can, but our editor is recovering from surgery and we're a very small paper. So everybody takes a little bit of her job. I covered 15 pieces this week. Just to give you an idea.
So I'll be slow for a bit. If you want to look at our paper go to http://www.ftnvalleynews.com/ and peruse the pages. I have stories and photos scattered everywhere. If you hit the news icon, then go to community pages you'll find my equestrian page and the grocery game, two of my regular features.
Anyway, I do have a post I'm working on, so talk to you soon
Earlier Horses by Moosefield, http://underthesignofthemoose.blogspot.com
I remember a photo of myself taken when I was about 6. I am sitting in a big western saddle on an amiable pinto horse. The horse is tied to a hitching post by its halter. I am beaming. For my sixth Christmas I asked for a pony and a clock radio. I did my best to appreciate the clock radio .
I drew horses and wrote stories about them. A few of those stories and pictures survive. I read horse care books and stories and novels, although some children's horse stories did not interest me because they were too fluffy. I liked Walter Farley to a point, but I tired of the endless Western venues; I preferred English saddles, the subtlety of dressage, neat stable yards, sleek jumpers and serious young "equestriennes." (And no, I am not saying that Western riders were not subtle, neat, and serious as well. Western riding just didn't appeal to me as much. Maybe it's because I was surrounded by it, and English riding seemed exotic to me.)
I traced and copied horse pictures from books and magazines, especially my sister's copy of The Light Horse Breeds, because it had magnificent photos with plenty of detail. I memorized names from that book. Dan Patch. Wing Commander. Merry Go Boy. Strange swan necked Saddlebreds with alarmed-looking eyes, exotic Appaloosas, graceful Arabs (Arthur Godfrey posed on his).
I spent my allowance on the plastic Breyer model horses at the variety store at the little mall near us. It was before the days of overwhelming mega-malls; it had two floors and I could get there by bicycle, and I often wandered there alone or with a friend. There was also the five and dime store. They had a few Breyers. I remember a sympathetic clerk offering me an alabaster Running Mare, at a discount, because the sun had yellowed it. I bought it for $4, which for me was real money. I named her Munga. I kept her until I left home.
My bike was a horse. First a small, dented, faded red child's bike that had been handed down a few times. I named it Flashingstar. Later, my father bought me a Schwinn banana-seat with high rise handlebars. It was royal blue, and somewhat difficult to ride, especially if I was trying to follow my older sister on her ten-speed. She used to take off fast on purpose and lose me. But I loved my bike, and it became my new horse.
And when there was just me, I was the horse. I cantered all over the place, a Centaur with my hands holding reins, my legs fast and agile. In the shower, I'd sponge my own legs as if they were streaming sweat from a horse's workout. I whinnied and bucked and kicked. I spent hours drawing and talking to myself, inventing plots, dialogue, and histories. I invented a fantasy about Wing-gusts, invisible magic flying horses that few were privileged to see.
When I was between 10 and 12, I used to go on long walks or bike rides. I discovered that the older neighborhoods sometimes had fields with horses in them. At first I just pulled up grass and fed it to them. Later I brought apples. I'd breathe in their nostrils, stand and dream and plot. And by the age of 11, I began to go horse joyriding.
There was a field very near my elementary school. It had two horses in it, black and chestnut. For a year, perhaps, I'd lingered, dragging my feet, ripping up chunks of dirt with grass attached, cleaning it up and offering it to the rubbery agile lips. I smelled the horses. My very eyes seemed to stroke their long backs, their warm curving necks. And suddenly, it wasn't enough. I had to ride them.
A girl named D. in my fifth grade class took riding lessons and knew about horse care, more than I did, though I'd had some fairly boring lessons at the horse rental/dude ranch stable a few miles from my house. She wasn't popular, and neither was I, but this forged no bond between us. One day, though, I happened to see her on one of my walks, messing with a horse in a field. We talked a little, I trying to conceal my envy and she quite matter of fact and not interested enough to brag. And after she left, I "borrowed" a bridle out of the shed she'd been working in, and put it in my closet. I went back to the black and chestnut horses one soft summer evening, and I bridled the black horse. I led him to a pile of junk in the corner of the field, and I put my leg over his back. I heaved and slid and sat, and I touched my heels to his sides, and we went.
He walked fast, ears alert and head nodding, but I could tell he was not upset. I clung to his mane and tried not to hang on with my legs. It was slippery bareback; I hadn't ridden much that way. Not any way, truthfully, but I felt whole on that horse. Like a cord plugged in, like a breath of air coming up out of deep water. My body vibrated subtly, a dormant string plucked. We walked around the field, then we trotted. And then, we loped, and horse-scented wind dried my opened mouth, goosebumps arose, tears sprang to my eyes. I felt weightless, endless. I could not believe my luck in being in this exact moment and place.
Then we stopped and I slid off and removed the "borrowed" bridle, and went home. I returned to that field twice more. I tried to ride the chestnut horse. He was not cooperative. Everything moved very quickly, and he bucked a little and I bumped and slithered off to the side and landed hard on my butt in the dirt, while he trotted away. I had tears in my eyes again, but for a different reason. My butt didn't hurt until my heart stopped thudding. The next time I rode the black horse again.
I remember the smell of the thick, moist grass that I pulled to lure the black horse to the bridle. I also remember the horse smell, that sweet, rough sweatiness. There is more to the memory, something hard to express: a huge, vivid immediacy, a brightness, a still, sealed-in intensity. Nothing else existed but the field, the pile of junk, the black horse, my skinny arms and legs, and the determination to ride. Yes, I knew it was wrong, but that awareness had flowered and burst like dandelions with the first quick step on horseback. It did not get through the bright boundary around me. My hands trembled slightly with audacity, but that was all.
All went well, at first. But then, there they were, two boys riding circles in the field on their bikes. How had they gotten in? I myself had slipped between the wooden fence rails. They stared, too long. They must know the land owner, the gate was unlocked. One boy was older than I. Act casual…but they were coming towards me.
"Does Pam know you're riding her horse?" said the older one.
"Who?" I floundered. "Oh, yes, Pam. Yes, I have her permission."
"Uh huh." The boy kept looking. His calm appraisal was worse than shouting.
"Yeah, I ride her horse all the time. I know Pam."
In a moment they left. I scrambled down, slunk onto my bike. Riding fast, I didn't see them. Hunched over the bridle straps, bearing down on the pedals, home.
And a few days later, a strange car in the driveway.
The owners were really quite nice about it. They didn't yell, threaten, accuse. Everyone was very reasonable and talked calmly about dangers and medical bills and insurance. I never rode the black horse again, but there were others.
I jumped on the back of a fat mare in an orchard on a wild, windy night, and she bucked me off harder than the chestnut had, and I landed on my right wrist, which swelled quite large. ("Nothing, Mom. I'm fine.") I rode a donkey in a pen full of donkeys at the zoo, on a dare from some boys. I galloped through the night on a neighbor's dun mare, until they padlocked the corral. I did take care for these animals, by the way. I checked their feet before and after; I watched where we went. A criminal I may have been, but I was careful of the safety of my unwitting accomplices.
When joyriding wasn't available, I begged rides from total strangers. A white pony in a park. An older girl slouching down the suburban street on the back of a small Appaloosa. ("What's the matter, are you fascinated by horses?" mocked a boy watching me watching the Appy. I was shy and klutzy, and a good offense seemed the best defense. "What's the matter, are you fascinated by girls?" I retorted, trying to be tough.) Occasionally someone said, "Yes," and let me ride.
When I was 12, I got to stay with a girlfriend in another state. She owned horses and lived in the country. One day, I got to ride a young Thoroughbred mare who did not care for walking. Nor for trotting or cantering. Her preferred gait was full out. We went into a field of soft dirt, and my friend told me to just let the hackamore reins out and let her go.
"How do I turn her," I said, already breathing hard.
"Real hard," said my friend.
It was the closest I could come, in waking life, to flight. It still is.