Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fast As We Can

If you told the 13-year-old me that by age 35 I would not only own two horses, but know how to tack and  ride them ... she would believe you but have 300 questions. She would want to know how it happened, how long it took from the wishing and wanting to holding a lead rope in her hand? She'd want to know how much it hurt - how many falls and scabs paid for that kind of skill set? And most of all, she would want to know their names and colors.

Well, 13-year-old weirdo me: it happened through stubbornness and took a decade of wishing and wanting. It hurts falling off horses, I won't lie to you. It happens less than you fear but more than you want. And the skill set you really want doesn't come from lessons you pay for riding in a circle - it comes from sweat and time on forest trails. It comes from learning to jump streams, recover from leaping deer or flushed grouse, and hundreds of miles spent on the back of a thousand pounds of herbivore. But it is all worth it.

Today my good friend (and amazing horsewoman) Patty Wesner came by to ride Mabel for the first time. Mabel has mild arthritis, and can't be ridden every day. But she can enjoy a few hours on the trail a week and today Patty rode her faster and harder than anyone has in a while. Mabel didn't so much as hiccup at the hour in the woods. She loved it. Patty couldn't stop smiling, herself!

Together we galloped through fields and trails. I was on Merlin, the man of my dreams. Mabel was ahead of us, moving across the landscape as if she already knew them by heart. Patty would give her her head and ask her to run and Mabel was thrilled to do so. Merlin and I weren't far behind. The old man kept up with his new girlfriend quite well. It was a glorious Sunday morning! To feel the wind you ask for on the back of a running horse. The years of work and time to feel happy and comfortable running together through the woods. When I first got Merlin, five years ago, I was scared of him. I didn't understand his body or mine. Now we are a time and the lessons he taught me translate to the paint mare I am falling in love with. Seeing Patty fly on her was a dream.

When we were home and currying our mounts, Patty looked over to me and thanked me for letting me ride my horse. I made a joke but inside I felt like it wasn't real. My horse? Is that tall, gorgeous, animal also mine? Will the director yell cut and the handler take her away, as if this is a movie set and not actually real? It's hard to believe I have made it this far. No one can take away those years of riding and learning and becoming the kind of woman who can race up the mountain with laughter on her tongue and joy in her heart. It's a pride that is worth boasting about. And I am proud of the home I made for Mabel and can give her. She is currently eating some apples off a tree and trotting across the pasture with Merlin by her side. It's a sight I barely believe, but will take in with all I have.