Of Horses and Riders
Learning to ride and working with horses grounded me during my youth. There is nothing so practical and earthbound as mucking out a stable. We girls, age twelve up, who rose with the birds on Saturday and Sunday mornings to attend to the needs of stable and horse, learned commitment and selflessness, lacking in many of our adolescent peers at the time.
We worked in all weather, from first light until dusk, for love not money. Worse than bad weather, we endured the stormy moods of Jill Cooper, the owner of the stables, cringing for fear of a tongue lashing. Horses and people cowered before her on terrible days, but just as changeable as the English weather, the sun would become her and all would be well again.
Working with horses set me up for the rest of my life. I often joke with friends who have similar horse backgrounds, that shoveling manure is good for the soul, but of course it is much more than that. There is something immediate and necessary in horse management. Something spiritual too. There is an innate sense for those that love them, that horses and humans are connected.
Because much of the relationship between horse and human is of trust and will, I have found that respect for such powerful creatures is a necessity. And having to learn again and again, in often painful ways, that if fear or uncertainty is present, the horse will sense it, and may try to take advantage. I prefer the intuitive approach. My dreams of taming wild horses were always of the horse whisperer kind.
I was a rider for most of my youth, riding and working at the same stables where I kept my horse Soldier. Previously, I had a pony called Cisco, but outgrew her. When I told a cartoonist friend of my Dad’s, that I had to get another horse because Cisco had become too small, he said, “Tell me more about the incredible shrinking horse!” I laughed, suddenly aware of long skinny legs and oversized jodhpur boots. A comical but sad Thelwell image.
Many horseless years later, I still feel the call to be with these remarkable creatures, missing the muffled whinny that greeted me. The dewy mornings bringing horses in from the field, the sweet earthy smells, the chomping of hay. I miss long summer rides in the relative freedom of the countryside around my home. I am honored, though, to have had the privilege of such experiences and to have known such beautiful and noble animals who by their very nature, filled my world with love, responsibility and dreams that I know will last a lifetime.
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