My first horse was a Shetland pony, which is basically a miniature draft horse. He was short and round and had wild, orange-blonde hair. His name was Candy and he was a complete asshole.
At the time of my birth, my mom, a horse enthusiast, had a pasture full of horses. Depending on who you ask, the actual number of horses ranges from just a few (Mom) to at least two dozen (Dad). Since I was small and Candy was small, he and I were more or less assigned to each other. Candy became my horse and we both deeply resented the arrangement.
On more than one occasion, Candy tried to scrape me off of his back by walking under a low tree limb or the upper board of a fence. He would surprise me with quick little jukes left or right hoping to dump me sideways. And, in the event I was feeling brave and generous and offered him a carrot, there was a 50/50 chance that little bastard was going to bite me.
Candy lived to be 16 years old. When his time came, we had the local large animal vet euthanize him. Burying a pet horse is similar to burying the family cat, but it involves a backhoe and a small bulldozer instead of a shoe box and a shovel. Fortunately, we had a large parcel of land in which to bury our horses. My dad, who owned a construction company had access to plenty of excavation equipment and was more than happy to dig the hole.
We laid Candy to rest next to his friend Jubilee, an old Buckskin gelding who had passed a year or two before.
My second horse was a young gray Arabian horse named Saracus. I received her as a gift for my 8th or 9th birthday. I didn’t have a horse on my birthday wishlist and I thought it was fairly obvious that horses really weren’t my jam, so I was a little surprised when my mother presented me with one. My mother was beaming with enthusiasm at her well found gift for me so I tried my best to play along. Needless to say, my relationship with Saracus was even more complicated than what I had going with Candy.
Saracus was a big horse and she was green (not very well trained). I spent the entirety of my years with Saracus trying to convince my mom that I really just didn’t want to be involved with horses, which was something she couldn’t accept.
The final straw came when Saracus and I were riding in some sort of 4-H or rodeo exhibition in Granby, Colorado. It was hot and windy and we were riding in formation behind a rider with an American flag. That horse decided right then and there to lay down in the dirt and roll, with me still on top of her and in front of a stadium full of rodeo-goers. When she was finished rolling in the dirt, I took her to the horse trailer where mom was waiting for me and I said that was it.
I have no idea what happened to Saracus after that. I don’t know if my mom sold her or kept her. I was done.
I haven’t thought about my equestrian years in a long time; mostly because they were so unpleasant. But those years recently came rushing back to me as I tended to my mother, who had been thrown from her 17 year old thoroughbred sustaining a broken hip, a brain bleed, and various cuts, bruises and scrapes.
When I tell people this, I invariably get two responses:
- How old is your mother? Seventy? And she is still riding horses? That seems a little risky don’t you think?
- How old is your mother? Seventy? And she is still riding horses? Well good for her for pursuing her passion and for staying so fit!
I don’t have any particular preference for one response or the other as they are both extremely valid points. Yes, equestrian eventing is a dangerous sport at any age, and yes, good for her for staying true to her passion.
I have resented my mom’s obsession with horses my entire life. Every aspect of our family life was dictated by the fact that we had horses. But that resentment looks a little different to me now. As a 40 year old woman with a family and a career, I can see that it’s important to have something for yourself that isn’t work or family. But I struggle with knowing how much is too much.
At what point is my thing, which is yoga, negatively impacting my relationships? I’m a better wife, mother, and employee because of yoga, but where is the tipping point?
And what about Mom? When that hip heals, does she head back out to the barn to saddle up? I’d like to say no, because she will inevitably continue to get hurt as she ages. But then what, there will never be a replacement for what she gets from horses.
And it kind of seems like a shame for her to quit now, kind of like dropping out of a marathon 1 mile from the finish line. So I guess she needs to keep riding, it’s not rational, but to be a true horse person is to let go of all sense of reason and follow your passion.
This article originally published on www.groundingup.com