I came out of the womb disappointed to not find a horse saddled and waiting for me—or so it seems. I’ve been horse crazy my whole life. I played with My Little Ponies and Breyer horses and any number of knock-off brands I could get my hands on. I pretended I was a horse when I ran around the neighborhood. On long car rides, I pictured being horseback beside the car, jumping all the ditches and galloping up and down the hills. I read every Saddle Club book, the Black Stallion series, and countless others. If there was a horse on the cover, I read it!
I started taking riding lessons when I was five (or was it six, Mom?). I remember weighing about the same as my saddle and trying to hoist it atop a horse I couldn’t see over. I remember long desert stretches where my trainer would let us lope, and how fast the world zoomed by.
A few years later, I had a horse of my own, a sweet Quarter-Welsh mix who knew how to bat her eyelashes at the 4-H show judges, could barrel around the dirt roads where I grew up, and was patient enough to let me try stupid stunts, like standing on her back while we walked down the road (with the reins draped across her neck) or riding her bareback without a halter or bridle while she was in her pen.
In my teens, I won a purebred Arabian in a raffle—and my parents let me keep her. I transitioned from Western saddles to English, and took part in training her (with the guidance of a horse trainer and after the trainer had done a lot of the heavy lifting). When I went to college, I sold her. My first horse had passed away years earlier. I was 18 years old the last time I rode.
Fast forward 20 years to my birthday weekend. My amazing husband surprised me with a trip to nearby stables where a friend boards her dressage horse. To my delight, she had her horse ready for me to ride, a helmet that fit me, and boots I forced my feet to squeeze into, because lack of proper footwear wasn’t going to hold me back.
I did not stop grinning the whole time.
Literally. The whole time.
Still grinning. I’m shocked I didn’t consume a few bugs. Maybe I did and didn’t notice!
I rode for an hour, though it felt like twenty minutes. It was spectacular to be horseback again!
It definitely helped that the horse, Annie, was such a sweetie! She tolerated my clumsy attempts to remember my own training, my jouncing struggles to post, and my general fawning over everything she did vaguely right.
I spent the next two days sitting gingerly, and a few more days hobbling a little every time I stood after sitting, but it was so worth it. Best birthday ever!