When I was nine years old the Disney Channel was showing a lot of movies with one common element: horses.
Like many nine-year-old girls, these beautiful, powerful animals caught my attention. From Dark Horse to Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken, I was obsessed. I wanted to ride horses, read about horses, watch more movies about horses, play with toy horses.
To satisfy my desire, I asked for riding lessons for my birthday. I hoped beyond hope that my parents would see fit to bestow this gift of all gifts on their youngest and best (haha, just kidding) child.
Up to this point, my experience with horses was extremely limited. I’d ridden ponies at the circus–which doesn’t count in any way– and I’d ridden on a little Shetland pony in Scotland when I was three. That is an experience my family likes to bring up periodically. Apparently my little pony couldn’t cross a tiny ditch, so they had to lift me off, walk the pony over, and put me back on. Meanwhile, my family was off gallivanting across the countryside (or at least that’s how it plays out in my head. I was practically a baby, so who knows how it actually happened).
But the experiences to come would replace all of those previous horse encounters.
I still remember opening my card and seeing my cake. My dad owned bakeries and always made our cakes. Mine was decorated with a horse and when I opened the card, it said “Good for horseback riding lessons”. It was the best. present. ever. in the history of presents.
I found out later that they assumed this would be a short-lived obsession. I wasn’t exactly outdoorsy (I hated bugs and rarely went outside), so they expected my excitement to fizzle out rather quickly. (They were oh-so-wrong…)
My birthday is at the end of January, and my first lesson was the first week of February. In Michigan, that means it was freaking cold. I was pretty unprepared for this whole scenario; I think I was wearing some tall rubber wellies and leggings (because when I was 10, I was definitely wearing a lot of colorful leggings). I was dressed as warmly as possible, but I had to balance warmth with the ability to actually move.
I vaguely remember the 20-minute ride to the barn. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that my dream was coming true. I was going to ride a horse. By myself. Could life get any better than this?
I seriously doubted it.
I remember walking into the barn. It wasn’t really much warmer than it was outside, but it was warm with the breath and life of the magnificent creatures that waited in the stalls. I was struck by the smell at first, but then I inhaled deeply and realized, this is it. I want this. I am smelling horse poop and loving it. Clearly I’m meant to be here.
I don’t remember the details (I have the WORST memory), but I do remember walking around on the horse in the indoor arena. If my memory serves me correctly, I rode Vandy, a tall sorrel.
It was absolute heaven. I had no clue what I was doing. All I knew is there was a horse beneath me and it was going where I asked it to, sort of. (Talk about power for a scrawny little 10-year-old!). I’m pretty sure all we did in that first lesson was walk. But it was enough.
I was absolutely, 100% hooked. And the obsession continued for six more years. Seriously, best birthday present ever! (Sorry mam and dad!)
Someday I’ll tell y’all about my first horse show. Yikes.
I’m trying to write for 31 days straight with the Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Wish me luck!!