Like so many little girls in Potomac, MD, I grew up surrounded by horses. We did not own horses, but we knew who did. And horse owners were always glad to share (well, show off) their horses. If you were lucky, you got up close and some you got to ride. Either way, it was a luxury. You see, these beautiful creatures were athletes, and expensive animals to own and maintain. Potomac was an elite suburb of Washington, DC and horse owners were of a certain class of society. Definitely upper class and horses were a pastime like golf was to the country club set.
For me, it was the elegance of their mane, their flowing tail, and athleticism that drew my attention. I watched in awe as these magnificent athletes marched within the grounds, entered the arena and then performed their various patterns of twists and turns and circles upon circles, with nary a sound to be heard from the audience. And then, it was over. They were walked back to their trailers and flew away.
What just happened? What was that all about? Was there a winner or loser? It seemed a very odd game. And I wondered how the horse felt…was he rewarded or was he punished? Surely it cared about its performance.
I traveled the horse circuit as a young girl with my father, attending any horse show within 25 miles of home on any and every weekend possible. My father was in real estate and thus did a lot of property showings on weekends and I found a way to see the horses via his routes. It was my heavenly pleasure to be in the company of horses all weekend, if only from the bleachers of an event.
In my high school years, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take lessons with an instructor who ran a show barn. My mother had made a connection in the horse world and paid for me to get lessons. I was ecstatic to be finally able to be with horses and learn the art of horseback riding. Once a week, I drove the 30 minutes to the show barn, and made my way to the stables where my instructor quickly looked me over and decided I was wishful thinking. I guess blue jeans and turtleneck were not the attire she had expected. Without a word, I was motioned to tack up a small horse and bring it to the main arena. Mind you, I had learned the fine art of tacking up a horse many years ago at summer camp. I was ready in a flash and in that arena ready to learn. I was a quick study, much to my instructor’s dismay. My clothes were not first class but my seat and hands were perfection. Not to mention my rapport with my horse, it was magical.
Some months later, I went to tack up my ride and found a new horse in its stall. Without skipping a beat, I groomed and tacked it up and presented it to the master instructor per our usual routine. After a few rounds of the arena for warm up, we proceeded with a trot along the rail, then down the center line and back to the rail. All at once, the loud speaker came on and I heard a very loud and panicked “STOP”. My equine companion and I were frozen in place and awaited the instructor who came running to the arena and stood there staring at me and the young colt. Her wide eyes had me quite scared and luckily the young horse did not spook! Apparently, my lesson horse of the day was newly broken, just returned from weeks of training and never had a rider on its back. Well, I said, it has now!
My new job was taking the first ride with all the new yearlings. And so it began.