December 9, 2009

the hoof of an unbroken filly

one year ago today, I drove to the barn and dropped off a check for $350, which served as deposit and first payment for my first horse.

before halter class

I didn't anticipate it, wasn't planning on it, and never expected to buy a horse at my age. I thought of horse ownership as something I would do in my thirties or forties, once I had settled down. It was a faraway goal, one that required a great deal of planning, and money, and time. I was 27; I was working four and sometimes five jobs just to stay afloat. "Buying a horse is literally the stupidest financial move I can think of," I told my mother over and over again.

June 6, 2009 horse show: Halter

I have loved a lot of horses in the 13 years I've been riding. Thea, the 3-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred who sailed over jumps and once threw me off four times in a single lesson; Mario, a little gelding who would do anything you asked; PJ, the Appaloosa who was a total jerk but athletic and honest over fences. There was Dalton, a wonderful horse at the dressage barn where I rode in college, and Roxy, the bay mare I once saw throw an 8-year-old and then go tearing around the ring like something had bitten her. Angel and Merlin, Luke and Leia. So many horses but only once -- with Mario -- did the thought even occur to me that they might ever be mine.

Years of lessons on other peoples' horses; a few years of leasing my own:

Toby
(along with the bruise he once left on my foot after he pounced on it while spooking at a tarp)

And then Cookie.
Nub and Cookie
before our first class
Cookie.

When I handed the check to Heather, she gave me a big hug. "Aren't you excited?!" she asked me, grinning. But I shook my head, sheepish. "No," I replied. "I'm terrified!" As I surmised that day, it took me weeks to feel even a glimmer of excitement; I didn't believe I had actually bought a horse. Nothing changed physically: Cookie lived where she'd always lived; there was no trailering or settling in. The transfer of her papers didn't occur until April, after I had paid her last payment. So in those first few weeks it was just an idea. Oh, and also this little blue line:

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But now, of course, she is my horse. One year later, she nickers when I walk to her stall, and has developed an endearing habit of nuzzling me when I'm standing on the mounting block. She does occasionally have her bad days, like this past weekend when she was so upset about another horse leaving the arena that she went careening off in a wild bucking spree; it was the closest I've come in a year to being tossed off her back. But in a year we have worked on fundamental steering and collection; we've been on trail rides and to a horse show, and even on TV.

Despite the fact that buying her was a crazy, ill-advised decision, in one year I have never, ever regretted it.

horse & rider portrait

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