Anyone that knows me well enough knows that I’ve been a big horseback rider for over half my life. What a lot of people might not know is how it came to be.
I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. For the first portion of my life, the closest I really came was books. Occasionally, I would feed one an apple on the side of the road or YMCA summer camp, visiting horses in a barn but never getting on. I distinctly remember being at a ranch and wondering how boring you would have to be to name your white horse Milky Way or brown horse Brownie. Summer camp horses got the short end of the stick, for sure.
My mother was a great mother. It’s taken me a long time to get here, to say that, but I do believe it. One of the best things she ever did for me was find a horseback riding volunteer program for me in Los Colinas, in the Dallas area. I was fourteen and emotionally struggling with high school, with the intensifying aggression of my father, with my rage building and building to a boiling point. That first day at the barn was heaven. They had a program where if you volunteered eight hours, you received a free riding lesson. A very generous program, indeed. My mother drove me there twice a week, thirty minutes each way, to provide this amazing opportunity.
Working with horses, physical labor, riding every week…it changed my life. I dare say, it saved my life. I think the only downside was that my trainer was an abusive French woman, who beat the shit out of the animals when they didn’t immediately obey. It was the wrong lesson for me to learn at that age and had to painfully unlearn in my twenties. Regardless, some of my most fond memories were literally mucking stalls. I enjoy physical labor like that. There is something so very satisfying about having a pile of shit that you can remove, putting the labor into removing it and experiencing the satisfaction of a clean space. That’s a metaphor for life if I ever saw one.
When the program was ended at the equestrian center (a devastating moment), my mother found a dinky ranch I could volunteer at. There, I lead trail rides and helped run a summer camp. I learned how to do barrels and even rode in a couple rodeos. I fell in love with this Quarter/Arabian dark bay named DeeDee. I was the only one who could ride her and boy, I loved her so much. There is even a yearbook out there floating around, with a photo of me on her. I ended up getting fired from there, literally accused of stealing a horse. I mean, the new manager was named “Candy” and knew nothing about horses. Sixteen-year-old me wasn’t having any of her bullshit, so she literally made up the strangest lie. I was accused of stealing an Appaloosa named Buckeye, who liked to rear. I’m sorry, but if I’m stealing a horse, it certainly wouldn’t have been a Appaloosa.
In Hawaii, I continued to ride. I rode every week for two straight years. That’s where I had to learn there are no asshole horses, just asshole humans. Sorta. I stopped riding, because this Dutch Warmblood wouldn’t stop throwing me. Every time he bucked, all almost eighteen hands of him felt like a Mac Truck coming up behind my ass with the force of a meteor. He got very irritated every time one asked for a canter the wrong way and I’ll be honest…the trot to canter transition is a weakness of mine. Newcastle did not improve it. LOL
Horses have always helped center me, especially when I didn’t know how to deal with my own emotions. I hope one day to have my very own horse. I mean, I will have my very own horse. I’ve got a lot of goals to achieve before then, but in the mean time, I wanted to share with you a little moment that changed my whole life. I am grateful to my mom, to the horses, to the people that let me ride the horses. I truly don’t think I’d be alive if I hadn’t had an escape every week from the chaos of my life.
What is something you experienced that changed your life? Share in the comments!