Monday, December 26, 2011

Mouthy Monday

This exciting story comes from spazfilly at  http://spazfilly.blogspot.com. I'm thinking there is an awfully fine writer here.

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The easiest thing to forget about the ocean is that it can be heard long before it can be seen. Even from our campsite on the other side of the dunes, the rush and roar was a soft and insistent push on the senses. I heard it as I hoisted myself up onto the back of my four-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, settling in as he sidestepped a little, flicking his ears toward the sound of all that water, more water than he'd ever seen until just two days ago when we arrived. I was so proud of him when he walked into the water on the first try, even though he swayed when the first wave receded, like he might drift out to sea while my father's dunskin filly danced on the shore, unwilling to try out this strange place and its slippery, shifting footing.

We stepped off at a brisk walk toward the dunes, my father in the lead. Following behind, we were a shadow, my horse's black coat soaking up the flat light from the overcast summer sky. Hooves sunk deeply into the sand as we climbed the low rise of the dunes, sparse, wispy grass giving way to miles of beach. The sound of the water washed away the presence of the few other wanderers out for a morning walk clothed in warm sweatshirts and braced against the breeze that felt more October than August.

My horse's nostrils flared, taking in the salt air. It wasn't his nature to frisk, but I felt him alert beneath my legs. He was soft, watching the people and the birds, sidestepping a bit of driftwood here and there, but always flicking an ear back to check that I was with him. I patted him on the neck. Good boy. And then something happened that I should have expected from years and years of preparation. Dad abruptly stuck his heels into his filly's sides and she shot forward as though her tail was on fire. In that moment, a rush of memories came over me.

When I begged for a horse at six years old, Dad made a jar with a picture of a horse that we used to save up with the promise that I could have a horse at 11 if I still wanted one. I went to horse camp for a week and then got a hot, reactive four-year-old Morgan that we had no business owning, but I brushed the barbed wire out of his tail and made him mine. Dad helped me muddle through. He pored over horse books and tried to teach me about animal psychology and how to train animals. He walked down the trail with me, trying to help me not be scared of the horse that shied and jumped at invisible monsters. He eventually bought his own mare after enduring a great deal of preteen disapproval from me at the way he liked to gallop down the trail on my horse, who would come back foaming with sweat but still jigging and pulling at the reins.

There were many times we trail rode together and he took off through the woods with no warning, leaving me to cling to the mane of my wild little horse, white-knuckled until he stopped or I was thrown, whichever came first. Blackberry brambles, mud, creeks, and wild tangles of grass were all places I made crash landings. One time I clutched the pommel of my saddle, crying as he chased my horse around a round pen with a whip because I was afraid to go faster than a trot. My horse whirled through the pen at a canter trailing clouds of dust in his wake. I remember only the pure survival instinct of clinging to my horse's back and waiting for it to end. Stumbling back to the barn, I shook and cried. He left me there, driving home to tell my mother to "go pick up your daughter." I remember his disgust, and insistence that if I were a boy, no one would think he expected too much of me. For him it was about speed, about fearlessness - about the rush of flying through the woods and over any obstacle in his path. I was cautious by nature and because of that I failed him. I hung back. The words "trail ride" soon dropped my stomach into my boots every time I heard them.

Through it all he was, in his own way, trying to share something with me.

But things were different now. I sat on the back of a horse I trained myself, a horse who kept walking as Dad's filly bolted, though I could feel his heart beating through the girth. There was only a moment of hesitation before I put my heels to his sides, crouching low over his neck. He moved out into an easy canter, seeming surprised when I nudged him gently again. We were arena babies, destined for circles and finesse, not for speed. An extended canter was our Mach 10, still carefully regulated down the long side of the arena, each stride measured in the steady rhythm of a rocking chair. On the beach his strides willingly lengthened into a gallop, the snorts of his increased breath echoing over the sound of the waves rushing up to shore. I slid my hands further up his neck, clutching handfuls of his mane and urging him onward, to which he responded with yet another gear, and I learned what it meant to ride a descendant of the great racehorses Man O'War and Bold Ruler. The filly wasn't far ahead now. I could hear her hoof beats slapping against the wet sand, her tail flying out behind her, a black flag.

Our speed tore the air from my lungs, wind tears streaking back into my hairline. They were tears of pure speed, of going faster than I ever imagined as I clung to the back of a thousand pound animal bred for just this - for the beach falling away beneath us as we passed my father, passed people who pointed and stared until it was just us, me and my dark horse a northbound blur caught up in the unbridled joy of togetherness and freedom.

It was finally my turn to be in the lead.

23 comments:

Bif said...

Great story.

He's your Dad and I'm sure you love him, but... if I were you I probably would have flipped him off as I went by. Not very Christmas-spirity of me, but there it is.

He (and you!) are so lucky he didn't spoil you on horses forever.

mugwump said...

Bif - you crack me up....

ellie said...

Beautiful!

DarcC said...

You go girl!

mns said...

Absolutely MARvelous story! And beautifully written, as well. Thank you for sharing with us.

sulphurfire said...

"One time I clutched the pommel of my saddle, crying as he chased my horse around a round pen with a whip because I was afraid to go faster than a trot."

This quote really stuck with me. When my daughter was 5 year biological father got her a pretty little named Bubbles. Bubbles was a wonderful teacher no bad habits except you couldn't sling a rope around her without her bolting at first and when she had had enough riding( in her mind)she would go to the gate and just stand. The day after we got her my ex-husband decided that Katie was going to learn to ride. In his opinion it was perfectly acceptable to chase Bubbles and make her run so that Katie wouldn't be scared of her running. Bubbles bolted and Katie grabbed the top of the hurricane fence trying to get off. She is 16 now and while she still has scars on her arm from grabbing the fence, she has overcome her fears that were instilled that day.The ex and I didn't stay together long after that.(too much drama to mention) For a long time all she would do riding was walk and trot. I never pushed her to go faster I knew the time would come when she would find her comfort zone riding. And she did first riding Bubbles and then riding Buck(a former heeling horse).They were both good first choices for a child to learn on forgiving and aware of their riders, almost bombproof. During the divorce, I regretfully let them go so my ex-husband couldn't get either one of them. He liked big rowel spurs and when I had to have one horse euthanized he suggested I bring it to the sale barn instead. I'm glad I got my daughter away from him permanently,he signed away parental rights so he didn't have to pay child support. Now I have a daughter who has no fear of her horses and a great outlook on life. Plans on becoming a farrier, then using the money from that to put herself through vet school. The only problem I have heard with her with her horses recently was winter before last she was home with the flu(almost over it) when she calls me at work and said " I rode Misty". Her three year old that had never been backed... Needless to say she got a major lecture on what could have happened and how no one was there to call 911 if she got hurt or if she would have hung up in a stirrup. " But mom I only used the stirrups to get in the saddle" Nevertheless she understood no riding any horse without someone old enough and experienced enough to help her out. The other thing she did was crank on our older geldings mouth when he didn't want to the way she wanted. Which got the response from me that if you ever do that again I will yank you out of the saddle so fast.... Enough of my rambling.

Becky said...

I applaud your dad for caring enough to try to teach you how to have grit. It sounds kind of like the father/daughter version of "Boy Named Sue."

That said, even if you had been a boy.. I agree with BIF.

What a great bunch of writing - loved the story!

Albigears said...

Thank you!

Chiron said...

Your Dad took an old school approach and it worked. I doubt it would work with 1 in 100 today. I'm guessing he saw something in you that told him you wouldn't give up.

You have to be true "Horseaii" to push yourself thru all that.

I'm not saying I advocate his approach, just that I understand it. I was raised similarly.

I admire your strength. I admire that you still ride with your Dad, and that you didn't let that cause you to abandon horses or him.

Well done!

Anonymous said...

fabulous storytelling!
Barefooter

nagonmom said...

I love this. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for staying true to your love of horses, and continuing to ride. Your Dad was doing the best he could, with whatever history he had himself. I would guess you will approach teaching riding from a different perspective.

Heila said...

Wow

redhorse said...

Nice job Spazfilly.

Now I'm glad that my father isn't a horseman, because he is from the same school of fathering as your Dad. He would take us for walks in the woods and then hide on us, so we thought we were lost. I'm glad we weren't on horses.

JJ said...

Beautiful story and so well written! I can't wait to read the blog now!

spazfilly said...

Thanks all for commenting and reading! It means a lot to me to be posted here for Mouthy Monday - I've been reading Mugs a long time and love the stories and people here.

I think nagsonmom hit the nail on the head with this sentence: "Your Dad was doing the best he could, with whatever history he had himself."

He taught me a lot even if some of it was learning who I didn't want to be. And that ride on the beach was the first step I took toward learning to stand up to him.

Anonymous said...

I love your way with words!

sheesh said...

spazfilly-
You have a good head on your shoulders.

Aurora said...

This story could not have come at a better time. I am just getting to know my 11 yo Quarter Horse gelding. When I was younger I galloped anything, any time. Now I am more cautious.... I have been having a hard time trusting my horse to stop. Yesterday I came off hard while galloping. I easily identified the millisecond in which he stopped listening to me, leaned into his mouth and GOT. While I was not too scared to get back on for the 2 miles home (with one stirrup - my leather snapped - lesson learned about checking gear religiously) I am eager to learn more about getting a good stop when I need it most.

Mugs can you address this... my back is hurt so am looking for some groundwork ideas and eventually saddlework for getting a stop I can count on.

gtyyup said...

Awesome, well-written story!

Peanut said...

So well written - beautiful

colleen said...

Very talented writer here. I sure enjoyed reading this story, partly because the story was good but the writing was great!!

Clancy said...

Good for you for not letting your father put you off riding and for maintaining a relationship, and being in the lead at the end.

As to his 'training' approach - I'm not sure if it's 'old-school' or 'bullying disguised as caring' or 'lack of ability to read student', but it seems to me it could easily do as much harm as good. There is far too much pressuring done by people who don't have other tools or choose not to learn others. Good for their ego perhaps, but hard on the recipients.

Anyway, kudos to you!

Whywudyabreedit said...

Awesome story, thanks for submitting it here. I will definitely go and check out your blog! I also join in with the others in regards to congratulating you for making it through those experiences with your dad. Good show!

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