I have loved horses since I was a very young girl. I hung pictures of them in my room, I practiced drawing horses until I could get a decent reproduction on paper, I collected Breyer models, and I dreamed of one day owning a horse of my own. But I lived in the suburbs and, at the tender age of 7, I felt it to be a simple fact that I would not be able to have one until I was an adult, which I equated with turning 19. When I am 19, I promised myself, I will have my own horse. And then sometimes I would start to panic – what if, by the time I’m 19, I don’t want a horse anymore? What a cruel twist of fate that would be! I laugh to remember that, back then, I was certain that I would not recognize myself as a grownup and certain that I may even be a completely different person by then. I wish I could go back in time, visit that little me, and reassure her that, at 43 years old, I am still horse crazy.
When I was 9 years old my mother sent me to a dude ranch camp in the outer rural suburbs. To me it was a world away, an entire vacation trip just to get there. In reality it was only about an hour’s drive, but it was far outside my realm of daily experience. I went for a week, and learned how to ride a horse Western style by going on daily trail rides and being in charge of grooming the horse assigned to me. I was in heaven. I dreamed of “horse camp” all year long, and soon I had convinced my mother to send me for two weeks each year. Looking back I realize it was a lot of money for my mum, but those really were some of the happiest times of my childhood. There was nothing fancy about the riding, just bombing around the trails with friends, but I knew in my heart that riding was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Once I started University life got very busy, especially my social life. But a few years into it a friend called me up one day and said “Hey, I’ve signed up for English riding lessons, wanna come?”. I learned that there was so much more to riding than just going on trails. I learned to jump, and participated in a few little schooling shows, but then I discovered Dressage and I was hooked. It not only appealed to my love of horses but there is a rather large academic component to the sport and that appealed to me as well. I spent the next 8 years training and competing in small, amateur shows. My performance was always mediocre but I had no professional aspirations and I loved every minute of it. I eventually rented a basement suite in the neighbourhood where I rode. I never tired of hearing the clip-clop of horse hooves as people rode down my street on their way to the local riding club. And throughout graduate school I had part-time jobs in the local stables, was an active member and volunteer at the riding club and our local dressage club, and was just completely immersed in the world of horses and the joy of riding.
When I graduated and moved to the US it only took me a few months to settle into my new life before I was out looking for an instructor. I was just getting settled into my new barn, meeting fellow horsey folk, when I met got married and got pregnant. My husband lived in another state so with my pending move and pregnancy I decided to take a wee break from riding.
Kids, cross-continent moves, career decisions, and fluctuating incomes prevented me from seriously looking at riding again. Before I knew it that “break” had turned into ten years. When we moved to this rural area last year I knew one day horses would be in the picture, but it still seemed a long way off. And yet, I’d pass by people riding all the time. There were horses living on our street. Riders pass by the front of our property to access the miles of trails that stretch to the west of our place. And I’d stare with a big, silly grin on my face. Still, I thought, my time hasn’t come.
And then suddenly it did.
Having kids can leave you in a bit of a fog for a while. It’s all about babies and toddlers and preschoolers who have needs that demand so much of your time and attention. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved every stage of my kids’ lives, but it does go by very fast and one day you wake up and realize that you have kids now, not babies, and that you are finally in a place to step back, take a look around, and rediscover yourself. And when I did I realized just how much I’d missed riding, and became determined that somehow I was going to get back into it.
Shortly after this private resolution, Husband and I decided it was time for us to take up a hobby together. I was surprised (and thrilled) when he told me that he’d always wanted to learn how to ride. He is attracted to backcountry horseback riding, and we live in the perfect spot for such activities, being right on the Trans Canada Trail as well as several other “off-road” trails that run for miles. We began looking into it, and this Monday he and I are going for our first lesson with a holistic trainer who works with Natural Horsemanship principles, is multi-disciplinary, and who I believe could possibly take us a long way on this new journey. Because horses really are a journey that can last a lifetime.
Our goal is to become competent riders and horse handlers, to get involved with local trail riding clubs, and to eventually get horses for ourselves. Yes, we’ve decided that there will simply have to be a place for horses here at the ol’ homestead. We’re also hoping the kids might eventually get interested enough to give it a try, though sadly neither of them appears to have inherited the horse-obsession gene from me. I will probably dabble in Dressage, while he may decide to do some cross country jumping. But I’m also thrilled that my husband will be joining me in this journey, and I’m looking forward to riding with him, learning to pack for backcountry riding trips, and sharing the wonderful world of horses with him.
I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about this new stage in our lives. I feel like, for the first time in my life, I’m in a place where owning a horse could actually be a reality for me. I keep thinking back to that little 7 year old girl I once was, lying in my bedroom at night, promising myself that one day I would have my own horse. It took a whole lot longer than I had originally anticipated, but I’d be happy to let her know that she needn’t have worried about getting old – I still love horses as much as I ever did.