The very first childhood memory that I can reach back into the recesses of my brain to dig out from behind the piles of 80’s song lyrics is me on the back of a horse. Disclaimer: This memory could be skewed in some details, both over the years of telling it and the reality of seeing the world through a child’s eye. It might combine events, the names may have been changed. My mom is sure to comment and correct me many times throughout this process, but that’s okay because she was there with me every step of the way. But what I do know is that I have always known where I belong, where I get the most comfort when times are rough, the place I know I can turn to escape from it all and experience the pure unadulterated joy of my childhood – on the back of a horse.
You see, my mom loved horses all her life, and then she went and had a kid. This meant she couldn’t afford a horse of her own when I was really young, in fact, we couldn’t afford many luxuries back then as my parents struggled to get their business off the ground, but she found money to take lessons at a local hunter/jumper barn regularly. Not money for a babysitter, but for that I’m grateful. Because my first very clear vivid memory is of me on a horse.
Not just any horse, a GIANT FIRE BREATHING JUMPER OF A HORSE. A big black horse named Travis. I do believe his show name was Catch-22, and his keeper, err, owner was a woman named Marcy – one of the “Maloney sisters”, a trio of horse trainers from Southeastern Wisconsin whom I largely credit with making me in to the rider I was/am today. But I digress…
I know I wasn’t 3 years old, because I got a pony for that birthday – more on that later – so at 2 years and change, I was riding a show jumper. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, think about the Olympics and the horses leaping over ginormous brightly colored obstacles while their riders cling for dear life. That’s what this horse basically did for a living, he was no $1 pony ride at the State Fair. At any rate, my mom was having a lesson and I’m sure I was probably supposed to stay in the lounge and watch like a good girl. This was evidently a hastily made and ill advised plan on the part of my mother. I don’t remember how I got on or why anyone thought this was a good idea, but I do recall two very specific details of being led up and down the concrete aisle of Somerset Farm. The first is that I looked down and the ground was really really really far away and I was on this really really really big massive wide horse. In reality, he was probably only 16.2 or so, and I think a thoroughbred, so in retrospect, he’s the size/width of my current horse, Jorge. The second clear detail is the sound of his shod feet as we traipsed up and down the aisle. Metal on concrete. Power. Command. Comfort, like the soothing sound of waves against the shore. Music to my ears to this day, perhaps that’s why my horse gets 4 new shoes every 5-6 weeks and I get them now every 5 – 6 months!
It was a feeling like none other. Indescribable in so many ways, but known intimately by every horsewoman or horseman who has ever sat on the back of such a noble creature and felt like they could take on the world from that seat.
Like I said, I don’t remember much of life before this particular moment, but it was one helluva fine place to start.
I hope you’ll enjoy my journey.