PonyFan wanted to stay anonymous. I'm glad she decided to come out of hiding and share her story with us.
Gotta be honest folks, this is the kind of story that gives me goosebumps.
Not just because she's caught up on her laundry either.
How I learned to love horses.
I was born a country girl on a little durum farm in north Canada. I liked it just fine, my grandparents ran the farm and there was always so much to do and see. Red tractors to fix, old and greasy, and gardening, and grass to cut, and I followed my grandfather around as he puttered in the shop, and drank with the local good old boys. Or I followed my grandmother around as she tended house and garden and cooked up endless soft white tray buns for those same good old boys.
But my mom, well, she wanted more. She wanted out of this dusty place, and endless chores and fourteen miles to the nearest dirty little town. She wanted malls and grocery stores and good schools for her kids, and public transportation. So we picked up and moved middle of my kindergarten year. My dad was a local schoolteacher, and he’d found a job in the city.
Horses never even entered my mind at this age. I had My Little Ponies and similar stuff but I preferred Ninja turtles. Riding lessons were always going to be a financial impossibility for me so the thought never crossed my mind. I didn’t even like movies about horses.
Until I had my midlife crisis at the tender age of twenty-five.
I had a whole lot of expectations riding on me, and a serious case of the smarts, and everyone I knew had a plan for my life. Except me. I was miserable. I didn’t know what I wanted. I picked up college, two, three, four times but never managed to finish anything. I’d fail my chemistry classes because that day I had discovered a burning interest in genetic inheritance. Or tropical fish. I fell in love with a boy who couldn’t get along with anyone, not even me.
And somewhere along the way I became selfish. I’d never been any good at being happy, I’d always much preferred to make other people happy. Now I was devoted to making myself happy no matter what. Reality could be held back by any foolish decision that made me happy right now. Tomorrow, I could do something even more foolish.
It was a terrible downward spiral, the more foolish I was the more foolish I had to be. I spent all my time making myself happy, and couldn’t even manage to take half decent care of myself. I couldn’t handle anything, not my chauvinistic boyfriend, my job or even keeping my place clean.
And that’s where I found horses. I befriended the stereotypical unemployed horse hoarder, and heck, she was looking for a roommate out in the country. She convinced me that buying a horse could be the best thing I ever, ever did. I went back to my childhood, the good old days, and remembered the good old boys, and their ball caps and snakeskin boots and the smell of hay.
I bought myself coming three year old untouched pinto mare. She was beautiful, I had no idea what I was looking at then, but my dream horse is a little 14.2 chestnut tobiano paint/paso cross. I just loved her thick flowing mane which fell on both sides and shone like white silk. She seemed to walk and run so fancy – she gaits and has lots of extension. (Hey mugs, if the paso wasn’t enough, her paint side is all foundation quarter horse, poco bueno). Her body and legs were solid, but she seemed delicate somehow. The paso added a lot of refinement. Her body was almost entirely white, and her dainty dished face was the prefect shade of rich chocolate brown. She had the largest dark eyes and eyelashes I had ever seen on a full grown horse.
I learned quickly then that buying a horse is nothing like buying a dog. Green and green makes black and blue, or so the saw goes, and boy, did we make each other black and blue. She arrived with a good deep cut from being chute loaded, and I never was able to tend it. Catching her was next to impossible, I had to leave her halter on, and even then I had to spend hours in the field with food. And once I had her, I had no idea what to do with her. She called the entire time I led her from the pasture, dragging left and right on the lead, and if spinning back didn’t work, she’d rear at me to intimidate me into letting go.
And slowly, I started to learn to question things. Things I read, people I knew and people I met. In the horse world, like life, everyone was quick to judge and even quicker to give advice. I learnt to look at the bottom line, and judge the method by the results. A good spanking worked much better than the million molasses cookies I purchased. I stopped believing everything everyone said, and started looking, asking, then demanding proof. I started to value honesty as a virtue, and tried to be more honest myself.
I started to question myself. It seemed the more frustrated I was with that little pinto mare; the more I wanted to do right by her. I wanted her to have food, shelter, and regular medical care even though I wasn’t very good at getting myself any of those things. We were both unkempt, hungry creatures. Even when she tied and pawing her way to China trying to escape my attentions, I felt a kinship with her. I felt like I was the one striking out at nothing, getting nowhere.
Every time I picked myself up, and brushed myself off, I wanted success more than I had wanted anything my whole damn life. Every time I chased her around for forty minutes because she just didn’t feel like getting caught, I beamed like a loon because she was no longer turned out in a halter, and it was only forty minutes, not four hours.
She started to learn to lunge and wore tack, and we worked on desensitizing, but I can’t tell if we were desensitizing me or her. The more I worked with her, the more I realized she needed me to take charge. I had to have a plan, be the one in control. I started to organize myself, and then my life so that she could have what she needed. Because I needed her more. I made little changes first, then big ones. It wasn’t a quick process; it was more like waking from a coma. I was weak and ineffective at first.
The first time I rode her was after I’d rented her a private pasture on a private property where the horses were all fat, shiny, halter horses. I saddled her up, and she didn’t flinch, or sidestep, or crow hop. I plopped a big rubber dee into her mouth, and gingerly mounted her from the fence of the round pen. We did seven circles each direction while my legs trembled and then I slid to the ground. It was fall of her fifth year.
Since then she’s moved to a boarding barn, and had thirty days where the trainer informed me that she was a true delight to work with. I’m pretty sure you can still see the spot where my jaw hit the floor. I ride in the arena and outside around the barn. My little pinto mare even trailered to the local trail park with me, where she outshone seasoned trail horses. I’ve gone a long ways too, and I still take lessons biweekly, and catch rides on other horses at the barn whenever I can. I probably average eight rides a week.
I can’t decide what my moral should be. Something funny like the only thing I learned was that I don’t know anything, or maybe sweet, like this little mare helped me take charge of my life. I think she taught me how to dream in reality and escape fantasy, but what do I know? Nothing.
My bills are paid on time, and I am getting better and better at taking care of myself, and there is no feeling like riding. Together, we are the expression of the relationship between human and horse. Sometimes it’s a silly expression, but that’s okay. Everyone thinks I am a kook because I don’t have cable (or even a TV), and I haven’t replaced the broken door on my car yet, but I’m all caught up on the laundry, and well, I am happy. We have miles and miles to go.
Buying a horse was the best thing I ever, ever did.