I still do not know how I came to be a horse fanatic. I grew up on the fringe, overlooking bush, orchards and houses, not horses. My parents were not interested in horses except for the occasional ride with my grandfather, who had spent time in the cavalry feeling like the inadequate city kid against his country counterparts. I was well into my obsession with horses when I really heard the legend of my great grandfather’s success with his harness horses.
Perhaps it was due to the clever bay pony behind the paling fence neighbouring the school playground. My friends and I would kick the fence until the pony arrived, climbed the bottom rail with his forelegs and reach over the top with his head to take the offerings of grass.
I was the youngest in the class, so I observed without comprehension the fascination for horses of the older girls. Then it struck. The obsession. I began working on the development of personal skills no class could teach and which would help me as rider: a goal (to own a horse), determination (to own a horse), persistence (my parent’s ears ringing with the monotonous request, “Can I please have a horse?”) and to push on in the face of rejection.
Eventually, on my tenth birthday, I got a bike.
Three months later, I got the furry, opinionated, spirited vehicle I really wanted. Zooming around on the bike lacked the element of surprise my pony possessed when he decided my riding time was up and helped me perform an involuntary dismount. The bike was unable to give me the sense of flying that my pony had when we jumped. My pony would have a way of letting me know what he thought of everything I did. Sometimes this was when the bike seemed to hold the advantage. My pony and I could cover great distances with more speed and power than the bike with the added advantage of being able to reverse roles and chase the territorial dogs. Unlike my bike, if I ever became terribly lost, I knew my pony would find our way home.
I did not know that I was learning to be independent, courageous, resourceful, considerate, and a trespasser. My riding friends and I thought nothing of taking shortcuts through people’s properties, or exploring the inside framework of a new house from the vantage point of our mounts. We would cop abuse for riding across lawn-like nature strips, and do it again anyway, and we thought nothing of riding down the middle of the road to slow traffic to protect our distracted dog.
As I got older, horses were always there to fulfil my needs. I look around at other horse folk now and see how they reflect our journey through life and our values. In my little valley, there are all sorts of horse folk. There is the person for whom having horses fulfils their innate need to nurture, some have their need for recognition met, and others who like to socialize from horseback. There are riders who have horses as time out from responsibility, the purpose driven riders and the owner that saved the doomed horse. Nowadays, I like to allow horses to be a window to the world, a way to understand nature through the embodiment of the horse. They are so sensitive, expressive and honest that I allow them to tell me about myself, and to show me what exists in other people. And I still like to zoom around.
Credits: Story and Photos by North by North East