I was a horse crazy little girl. Keep in mind that mental illness runs in my family so I don’t mean just a little horse crazy. I mean off the deep end, past the point of cute, should probably see a therapist, horse crazy.
Sure, there are plenty of little girls who draw plump little pink horses with their pony pencils, and boast of My Little Pony collections shelves deep. They have lists of potential horse names, horse breeds, and colors to paint fairy tale barns. This, of course, is all going to happen once Prince Charming gallops in on his white steed. He is going to whisk them off to the land of bodies built for breeches and horses who magically know every thought and desire.
Yeah, that was all well and good for some girls. I was a tad more extreme in my obsession. Left mostly unsupervised during the day I would make myself a breakfast of cream of wheat which I didn’t necessarily like but equated to Black Beauty’s gruel. I would eat it without my hands, like a horse would. The mess was always quite substantial, but my tortoise best friend never told on me before I got it cleaned up.
He also never told that I fashioned him a harness and taught him to pull a carriage. He’d putter around all day pulling a little makeshift wagon and letting me tug on him to get him to steer him left or right as I tried over and over to teach him “Gee” and “Haw” voice commands. If I couldn’t have a horse, I decided I had the next best thing. We taught each other patience he and I.
Every night I would look out my window and make the same wish. “Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight. I wish for a HORSE!” And just to be thorough, I would add a wish for the second star, the third star, the fourth star, and so on until I either fell asleep at the window, or got caught out of bed.
I got sent to the principal’s office one year during my school’s field day for “cantering” the 50 yard dash. My team was not pleased that I could not canter as fast as the other team’s player could sprint. Truth be told, I would have lost either way and perfecting my fancy dressage gait was WAY more important than having mere children think highly of me. I tried to explain the importance of tempo, balance, and timing to no avail. The principal was speechless, my physical education teacher was irate. My mother told them they had no idea.
I laugh when I hear parents bribe their children with candy or money, because it was so much easier for my own mother. “No, you probably shouldn’t cut your hair. When you are older and work with horses you are going to want it long so you can braid it back, and keep it out of your eyes when you ride.” “You want to make sure you do well in school. You want to be able to get a good job to buy your horses!” and so on. It ALWAYS worked. Not just when I was a small child. Clear into my middle school years if my mother could figure out a way to make horses the center of what she wanted it was sure to work.
I always assumed horses would be a part of my adult life. In fact, I couldn’t wait to be an adult so I could figure out how to immerse myself in what I was obviously put on this earth to do. The fact that my family was dirt poor and lived in the very heart of a huge city never slowed me down. Nobody in my immediate family had horses. Most of them had no idea what to make of me or how to break it to me that the chances of me fulfilling my horse aspirations were pretty slim.
A few times however, they did try to support me. My older brother took me on a trail ride at a nearby stables once. My mount was an old palomino gelding named Moondancer. That ride was like giving someone who had crossed a desert on foot a single drop of water. It was absolutely maddening to be so close to my dream, and yet only have it in my grasp for what seemed like moments.
Some way, some how, my father’s mother ended up with a couple of older arabian horses for a while during my fifth grade year. My father who was was less than a solid influence in my life, all of the sudden became quite a bit more important to me. When he was around I would hound him to take me to see my grandma.
The times when I succeeded were some of the best of my childhood. He would take me to her home way out in the hot Arizona desert and leave me there for a few days. She showed me how to oil tack and only had two rules. Take care of the tack, and clean the pens first, and the horses are all yours. And, don’t bother me unless you’re bleeding, A LOT. It was a perfect world. I didn’t mind the work I needed to do because from reading every bit of horse literature I could get my hands on I had figured out that this was part of it, and thus should be embraced just fervently as the horses themselves.
When the work was done I would approach the horses completely unsupervised and unhindered. On my own to figure it all out. I could get them caught, and I could get them saddled in a fashion. Then came getting the bridle on. That took a little work, but was managed after I wrapped the bit in hay. Then I’d figure out how to get up there and ride until I got dumped. And then, well, I’d do it again. I would get up there, and fall time after time with a smile on my face.
At some point my grandmother would look out the window and figure out that indeed, I had managed to get as far along as I had. I would get jerked off and scolded for not doing my chores first because really, what kid is going to oil tack, and shovel weeks’ worth of horse manure without an adult hovering over her? The look on my grandmother’s face was priceless when I showed her the job well done. She’d shrug and go back in the house. Speechless, like so many others, and helpless in the face of my determination.
Honestly, the only reason I can say I didn’t get killed or severely injured is because I must be meant to go a different way. I do know my guardian angel slept well the days after my visits to my grandmother’s and so did the horses.