Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Golden Pony

A little girl lives a quarter mile up my road, on a three-acre plot with a battered farmhouse and rickety fence. She runs to the mailbox when I ride by, and she calls me "her Highness" when she thinks I cannot hear.

I find this embarrassing, but sweet. After all, I have not been adult too long to perceive how an imagination, just ten years old, might transform a neighbor woman with long hair and a gray horse into a princess astride a milk-white steed.

"You know what?" the girl asked one day, when I paused to let her stroke my noble charger. "Horses are my favorite animal." She cradled this truth in conspiratorial voice, as if it contained a wish too great for hope.

I understood. Oh, I understood!

That was two summers ago, but I thought of it today when I drove by that house to discover in the pasture something like a pony. It's an awkward little beast of indecipherable heritage, pieced together of breeds that ought never to meet, yet blessed with a coat of palomino dapple that I'm sure its young mistress believes is solid gold.

I've smiled all afternoon at the thought of that girl. Though stifling hot and thunder torn, today is, for her, that perfect day. It is magic, but it is real! She knows nothing of devastating colic, mysterious lameness, a crushing fall. She's never borne the weight of a thousand training hours destroyed by one bad step, a gate left open, a twist of wire buried in the weeds. She sees nothing in that pony but her fondest dream come true.

I had that magic once. We all did. And yet, somehow, it slipped away. The travesty struck in silence by the same, subtle shift that degraded running and jumping from play to exercise, contorted sleeping on a friend's floor from adventure to necessity, and ravaged the sensuality of meals with stomach-turning guilt.

Conditioning our horses has become a duty. We want not so much to ride as to have ridden. Because we are supposed to, because we said we would. We focus so hard on the minutiae of tack fit, of hoof care, of speed and feed, that we forget to cast our hearts over the horizon and ride to find them.

And so, our hearts are simply lost.

I was recently gifted another chance. Two weeks after our race at Owyhee Fandango, Consolation tied up. It was my fault; I cut her grain ration while she vacationed post-race, but I should have eliminated it entirely. The excess carbohydrate crashed her system only a few minutes into our first warm-up as we started back to work -- and the result was a month of no work at all.

Disaster! Disappointment! The angry slap of goals thwarted again. Again. Again! All the things of which my little neighbor is innocent, because she knows things that matter more.

Consolation is back at work now. (Forgive me -- back at play!) Today we trotted through the world, all shifting skies and wind abluster, and I smiled to think of that little girl and her shambles of a pony. I may have better horses than hers, better tack, better technique. But she has something better still.

She has, in full measure, that which I clasp like water in my hands: The sunshine sense that a horse -- any horse! -- is spun of purest joy. And to have one of your own? Such is heaven, most of all.

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Spartacus Jones said...

Beautiful and beautifully written.

For me, The horse is the perfect incarnation of freedom, strength, integrity and joy all rolled into one and it is an extraordinary privilege to spend time with them.
We all need to stay connected to that joy of being, loosen up the reins on our human ambitions a little, and just be right here right now.

Good reminder.


Lori Skoog said...

What a sweet post. I hope you will take a picture of that little girl and her pony someday. Innocence.
Glad to hear that Consolation is making a come back.

Tammy said...

I was soooo that little girl, too. And now all grown up, I look out in wonder and can't believe they are mine.

Niamh said...

I hope you can get a picture of this girl and her little pony...maybe you can stop by and give them some pointers on grooming (start with the fun stuff!!!)

I forget all the time during my retraining of a young chestnut mare that I actually LIKE's stories like this that touch on what is truly important between a girl and a horse!

Funder said...

Dixie is only a duty until I get on her. Then she's pure fun. When I test-rode her I felt like the queen of the world on a shining white palfrey, and I still feel like that (almost) every time I ride.

But man, thinking about carving out the time to go ride really sucks. I completely understand what you're talking about.

Sorry Consolation tied up. :( If you ever get the time, I'd love to hear more about it. I only feed a token pound of ration-balancer grain, but the more I know, the better my choices will be in the future.

Endurance Granny said...

Healing thoughts for Consolation. Lord knows, I've been there done that. It is a frightening, life altering thing. Fit mares have the highest risk, they don't really know why. Most of the information on the condition is "theory."

I to would be interested to hear of the account of what happened to make me a more informed horsewoman. Also your rehab strategy. To further understand the precursors, the symptoms of trouble coming on. ~E.G.

Anonymous said...

I always gasp with pleasure when I see a new post from you! They are such a good read, albeit too short and infrequent.
Glad to hear your pony is again peppy, and hope you find the peace you need and the time to write more.

Horseartist said...

I am starting to experience the joy of riding again. But we are only doing 30 minute walks on level ground. I've been through a year of mystery lameness, with it being everything from DSLD to a bone chip to a stifle issue. And the jury is still out. It could have also been an episode of tying up...

All I know is that we will be taking it very, very slowly, and trying to change as few things as possible at each new stage.

Remembering the dream horse or pony of our childhood is a wonderful thing to do. It puts it all in perspective and makes me fully enjoy the short walks with my Perfect Mare.

Good luck with bringing Consolation back.

Bailey said...

What a beautiful post - your writing gave me goosebumps. It takes me right back to the magical day I received my first horse as a surprise gift and all the wonderful rides we had together. It's been 16 he's 27 and still looking great. Although he's now a pasture pet, he will always be my perfect horse. Thanks for reminding me.

strivingforsavvy said...

So true. I hope it makes us all stop and think why we got into horses in the first place.

Jonna of Acer Farm said...

Thanks for reminding us, that we once chased this dream for the joy of it, not the work. The next time I dread going out to ride because I "have to get the miles", I will remember this post...Beautiful! Well done.

Merri said...

not every ride is magical, and sometimes I get impatient/worried/frustrated/too busy... but I've never lost that sense of magic...
(maybe it's because I got into horses way later than I longed to)
- The Equestrian Vagabond

celeste said...

I read your blog regularly but do not often comment. I just wanted to say thank you for a lovelly post. I have been a bit down about my own horsey life lately and this post has made me re-look /re-think everything.

Jan said...

Lovely post. So very touching. I got my first horse almost three years ago, in my fifties, and I am still thrilled beyond words to have him! My own horse - to love, enjoy, spoil, learn from and teach. What a wonderful creature the horse is! Thank you for reminding us.

Jan said...

Lovely post. So very touching. I got my first horse almost three years ago, in my fifties, and I am still thrilled beyond words to have him! My own horse - to love, enjoy, spoil, learn from and teach. What a wonderful creature the horse is! Thank you for reminding us.

Emmi said...

What a beautiful post. I love the way you are with words, it sounds magical.

Mel said...

I feel your pain. Farley tied up 3 weeks post tevis on one of our first rides back. I wasn't feeding grain, but the hay the stable was feeding was high in sugar (just confirmed that today) and her Se levels, although normal, may need to be boosted.

It's definatley been a learning experience.


It's times like this where everything refocuses what is important - healthy happy horse. Everything else is just gravy.