Or, all the horses I've loved before.
What goes around comes around, even if sometimes you forget where you started.
I'll explain. For as long as I can remember I've loved horses, although my mother tells me that I was afraid of them when I was 2. Thankfully that age is beyond my memory and it seems logical to me that a 2-year old might be afraid of a giant, curious animal.
Apparently that fear didn't last long because I remember wanting to be near every horse I saw and more importantly riding that horse. I would pretend that calves, pigs, dogs, broomsticks, barrels, saw horses, teeter totters were horses. One very happy memory was when I got to ride a pony at the fair even though the pony was attached to a wheel that went round and round with more ponies in front and behind. None of us were going very far or very fast. Still, it was a happy memory.
Friends at school who had ponies or horses were very good friends indeed since I couldn't have a horse of my own growing up. In third grade I immediately befriended a new girl. For one thing I knew what it was like to be the new girl. And then I found out her family had two Appaloosas. She became a very good friend.
Very few of my school mates had the standards I did for picking friends. In fact, they were quite critical of the new girl. Thought she was "weird" for reasons I still don't understand. Or maybe I should since I know she lives in the area but we are no longer friends, mostly because we lost touch after high school and lived our lives. Such a common story.
In any event, she and I became great friends and rode her horses when we could catch them, which was hard when we were little 8-year old girls. When we could catch them we'd ride bareback because the saddle had too many buckles, was too heavy and frankly was a lot of bother. Sometimes we used bridles but for the most part the halter and lead rope were adequate. Or bailing twine if a lead rope couldn't be found.
The horses were great comfy pasture horses with broad backs. The one I rode was taller, which was fair because I was taller I suppose, even though we had to line the horses up next to fences or stumps to mount. Eventually we grew tall enough and coordinated enough to jump on by hanging on the mane, facing the tail, then taking a great flying leap to land frontward on the horses back. Even more surprising is that the horses would put up with this but we were mostly harmless little girls.
We'd ride through gates, galloping over pastures then down the road to a commercial tree farm and be out for hours, talking, riding, just enjoying the journey, always bareback. And then we grew up, ran on the high school cross country team together for a few years, graduated and went our separate ways.
I missed horses greatly and started taking lessons at a stable not too far away where I actually learned to put on a saddle, a western saddle, and ride. Really ride. Soon after I leased a little grey Arab, then I bought my own. I started with a sweet Paint mare, that was greenbroke. In other words, she'd been saddled and ridden but didn't know much. Still she was safe and perfect for me. Then I bought an Appaloosa gelding that had been a world champion cow cutter in Oklahoma. He was also awesome.
And then life changed. I finally went to college, which meant no time or money for horses and the horses sold. I didn't look back, because I couldn't. For many years I focused on developing my career with the park service, which meant lots of moves. Definitely no room for horses in my life.
Finally I settled and wanted horses again so I started taking lessons, rather sporadically. Except I moved again and settled for longer. Just my luck there was a stable a couple miles from home where I could take lessons. This time I decided to ride hunter/jumpers. And bought another horse. This time when I moved I took the horse with me. But when life changed dramatically again, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to scale back from full board and training. I didn't know how to be a budget horse owner, which I know sounds like an oxymoron but people do it successfully.
My horse went to a forever home, bone spurs and all. I got a good price for him, bone spurs and all. His new owner wanted a horse that would not stop in front of the jumps and he was the horse that would jump sideways over a jump if he had to. I looked back when I sold him even though I knew I shouldn't. I was certain that I'd never get back into horses again because I didn't know how to scale back to a place that was affordable. I put my saddle up for sale. It felt final. And sad.
After years on Craigslist my saddle did not sell. I finally took that as a sign that I was not serious about ending my relationship with horses and there simply had to be room. When my sister in law and niece in law got horses, logic would say that I would've been excited about it but I couldn't be. If the armor came down, I wasn't certain what would happen to me. What I should've known and trusted is that I would find a way because I'm a clever person.
Last spring I noticed my saddle on the rack, cautiously took the cover off expecting to see mold. No mold, no cracks, no signs of rot. My former trainer had retired but her assistant took over the business so I contacted her. And have been riding when I can.
This is not a happy ending but a happy beginning. I do want to buy a horse but I'm not in a hurry. I need to figure out budget horse ownership. Since we live in a development, a horse at home is not possible nor would I want the responsibility with all the other things I do. Smart people say that if you're going to have one horse it's cheaper to board than to buy a farm. There's a number of horses where that equation changes and maybe it's 2 horses but I don't know and I'm not planning on knowing. One will be enough.
I've been getting to ride lots of horses over the last months. My first lesson was on a nice gelding that my trainer borrowed because none of us were certain how much my riding skills had deteriorated. Calvin was a very agreeable horse and we got to go over a few jumps. Nice going, Kylie, because of course you knew I'd be hooked. And I am.
Then I got to ride her school horse, a particular Warmblood gelding named Bob. He insists on perfection, very clear signals. I'm not perfect and he lets me know. My signals are getting clearer. He's got a bit of a sense of humor, even if a slightly wicked one sometimes.
I borrowed a horse for a hunter pace with the local hunt club. Kerry let me borrow her sister's Clydesdale, a saint of a mare named Lucy. It was a hot day and we went slow but we did get to jump at least one little log on the ground.
Yesterday I went back to the hunt club because hunt season is coming and I know I want to ride outside. One of the staff members let me try her 28-year old gelding who was her Rolex (upper level 3-day eventing) horse in the late 90's. "Seven's" has an enormous trot and a fantastic canter. We got along great and Cathy let me take him over a jump a couple times, which was great fun, and I have been cleared for borrowing this fantastic horse for hunting season.
Cathy complimented me on my riding to which I have to credit first the pasture Appaloosas from my childhood and then all the great horses (Kajun, Dandy, Sing, Prince, countless lesson horses, then Clipper). Also, the great and patient trainers I've ridden with: Catherine Cloud, Stephanie Blockley, Sally Collins, Sue Sultze, a few I've forgotten -- in Humboldt County, in Bell Canyon (SoCal), in a large, i.e. giant, equestrian center in the San Fernando Valley, Hansen Dam, Barbara Vasilaros when she was in Chatsworth, CA, back to Sally Collins, and now Kylie Forst.
For now I'm satisfied with the riding I'm doing and when the right horse comes along I'm certain I'll know. This time I want to provide the forever home.