I Was a Middle Aged Barn Rat, Part 7, “Teenage Days.” This is a ten part blog series about the year I decided to pursue my lifelong interest in horses, based on an article that appeared in Equus, March 2015.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I was promised a horse when I was eleven. For the next four years it remained nothing more than promise, then when I was fifteen it stopped being even that much and I had to face the fact that I was never going to have a horse. During that time I was allowed to be around them, and the constant refrain from the parental units was that horses were expensive, horses were dangerous, and horses were a lot of work.
Once when I was eleven I was taught to groom one, but not allowed to ride. That didn’t matter, because it was heaven to be privileged to brush him. I breathed in the smell of him and of the barn, the hay, the leather, and I wished with all my heart I could stay there forever. All the way home from that trip it was explained to me that I couldn’t possibly still want one now that I knew how much work they are. I cried. I wanted that horse more than anything. Often during those years I was told how much I didn’t know about horses, and how lacking I was in all skills. That didn’t matter to me, because I knew I would learn those things once I had one of my own. I still believed in the promise.
When I was fourteen, for about a year I went riding on rental horses about every two weeks. At first I was permitted to ride only the “gentle” horses. Those are the ones who won’t hurt you because they refuse to move faster than a walk. At first, that was enough for me. I was happy just to be in the saddle, and it didn’t matter where or how fast we went. An hour of plodding along a trail was, to me, an hour well spent.
But after a few months of making my way up the risk hierarchy, I was deemed skilled enough to ride the horses rated “spirited.” That was the best. Not only did I love the work of taking care of a horse, it turns out the most fun I had that year was the one time I fell off. Continue reading