I did my best to seize on every horseback riding opportunity I could. My friend Bonnie was lucky enough to have a horse on her small farm, and we would ride double on the mare on the dirt road by her house. Once we even raced some boys on their dirt bikes - thrilling. This was also the first horse I ever fell off of. On one icy day, the mare slipped on a patch of ice on the road and Bonnie and I hit the ground. It's the kind of thing that shakes you and stuns you, and can easily turn you off from ever getting on a horse again. I got back on.
When I visited my biological father in Montana in high-school, I saw my first rodeo. I galloped his Arabian, Sheherazade through the pastures. Heart fire. Love.
The years moved on. Family and responsibilities took precedence. Horses were far in the background, a passing flicker of appreciation and beauty. Until my daughter discovered The Saddle Club. For those of you who aren't familiar with this show, it's a short lived Australian series featuring a group of young girls who ride horses at a stable called Pine Hollow. The girls all have good hearts, and their passion for the horses forges them into best friends. I have to admit, I watched along with her without complaint.
The horse fever alive and well in my my daughter, and I proposed horse lessons. After a little research I found a local barn and set her up with lessons. The girl was a natural. She took to horses like she's been on them her whole life, with no fear, no hesitation. On a horse, she glowed.
Her joy made me totally jealous. I'm ashamed to admit it, but there it is. Soon, to my daughter's complete embarrassment, I started taking lessons as well. And there was the magic. On a horse I felt powerful, beautiful, unstoppable. In my life, these feelings are rare and fleeting, and horseback riding provided a total emotional high.
It wasn't long before I knew I needed a horse of my own. I envied the bond I saw between other horse owners and their horses, and I wanted to ability to ride whenever I wanted to- half an hour a week just wasn't enough anymore. Everyone thought it was insanity, but I didn't care - it was love, it was obsession.
Eventually I took my husband with me to a place a few hours away that I knew was a last stop for horses on their way to slaughter. It had been recommended by the lady I took lessons from, as she had rescued several horses from there herself. I knew I wanted a gelding, and I knew I needed a horse that was sane and beginner safe. I also wanted a bigger horse so I wouldn't look ridiculous with my heavy frame on a little horse.
When we started perusing the horses, the gelding selection was slim - a lot of their horses had just gone out to summer camps. One beautiful gelding was tied in the isle. His muscles were tense, nearly twitching, and I got the impression he would kick me given the chance. Fail. When I finally approached one of the gals that worked there, she steered me towards another gelding, head tied in a row of other horses, with only his rear end visible.
#92 was short. I was skeptical, and figured this trip was a lost cause. after a moment, #92 began to freak out, flailing and kicking until he fell down. The female employee began cursing, spouting that this horse hated to be head tied, and she was going to kick whoever had tied up this horse. After seeing all of this, I was ready to move on, but the girl quickly untied the horse and brought him out. Once he was untied, #92 was immediately calm. I was still not enthused. The girl asked if I'd like to ride him. I reluctantly agreed. When they put the large western saddle on him, it really struck me how small #92 was.
When I got on him, he continued to be calm and steady. Slowly, I walked him around the ring, then upped him to a trot. His gait was tight and bouncy, but strong and stable, not a hint of lameness or even stiffness. Despite how horribly skinny he was, and the fact that I was told he was around 20 years old, he moved beautifully and with serious energy.
When I got off, I had to ask my husband if I looked ridiculous on this 14.3 hand horse. He said no. I patted and hugged #92. His big brown eyes were deep and sad and I noted all the bites he was covered in, along with a large kick mark on his side. The girl told us he didn't do well fighting for food. My heart went out to poor little guy. I needed to think.
On the way home, we talked. I said I thought #92 was a decent horse, but I'd like the lady who gave me my lessons to take a look at him since she had more experience dealing with buying horses. First I called the place where #92 was for sale and asked how long they expected him to be there- they said less than a week. I asked if they could hold him there for a deposit - they said they wouldn't keep him there any longer than two days even with a deposit. So I got frantic. I called my riding instructor and begged her to come back and asses the horse with me the next day. Shockingly, she agreed readily.
The next day I headed back with my instructor and her trailer in case she decided #92 was a go. When we got there, we saddled up #92 with her English saddle, and my instructor chatted with one of the employees in rapid French. I watched as she mounted up and took him through all of his gaits, circled him around, bent him this way and that. Her face was still and I couldn't determine what she was feeling regarding my prospect.
When she was done, I helped her remove her tack, and she said to me in a low "If you don't buy this horse, you're an idiot". I was stunned. She went on, telling me that the employee she had been talking to said that the only thing they knew about #92 was that he had been rejected by a summer camp for being to fast for the kids. His gaits were solid, he was steady, and for the ridiculously low price they were asking, my instructor assured me he was a steal.
I went into the office. They took $25 off the asking price, I signed the papers, and #92 was officially mine. We loaded him into the trailer, and I've never looked back.
#92 is now Hurley, a name chosen by my husband after my favorite character on the show Lost. He has been my love for a year and a half now, and I've never regretted getting him, despite the flack I've received from friends and family over the costs of boarding, vetting, etc. You can't put a price on love. Hurley has filled out and is now a perky, loving, chubby little "pony". After some fantastic training, both my daughter and I now ride Hurley regularly and he's an amazing boy.
It's the incredible bond that I share with Hurley, and the bond I've seen first hand with my other friends and their horses that inspired me to create the Equine Dreams line of horsehair jewelry. I saw a few people sporting horsehair bracelets, and it was such a special idea, that I knew I could create my own by combining the jewelry making skills I already possessed and my passion for all things horse.
My biggest desire with this new endeavor is to help people create a special keepsake so that they can keep a piece of their magical bond with them always. I really hope I can achieve that for every person that receives one of these pieces.