Lousy picture, but this is me -- several lifetimes ago -- on my horse, Peggy (short for Pegasus). I don't know why I've been thinking about horses lately. It's been ages since I've been on a horse. The last time I had the opportunity to ride a horse, I didn't even take it. I stayed on the ground with my camera and watched the kids ride, instead.
It's weird how perspective changes. There was a time in my life when I would have told you that I would always have a horse. I grew up on a farm (well, in the country anyway) and a pony in the pasture was pretty much a permanent fixture. I grew up attempting to ride a Shetland/Welsh cross named Roberta who was as ornery as a horse can get. She was also gentle, however. I mean, she didn't mind dumping a kid, but she always did so gently.
I can remember being about 4 or 5 and my mother was leading Roberta. I wanted to go faster so mom broke into a jog. The saddle must not have been tight (that pony knew about puffing up and holding her breath while you put the saddle on so that it was so tight for the ride). Anyway, my memory is of going bounce, bounce, bounce, all the way around the side of the horse until suddenly I was underneath her and couldn't hold on any longer. That horse ran right over me, but she didn't hurt me at all. It was as if she knew that actually stepping on me with all her weight would be a bad thing, so she kind of skipped over me and then, along with my mother, turned to look at me as if questioning my wisdom for lying on the ground.
Of course, all my friends loved riding that pony. She was pretty good about being led around the yard with an inexperienced kid on her back. It was always a challenge trying to ride her without a lead, though. One of the favorite games for me and my cousins was to get on Roberta at the house and then ride down the driveway and see if we could get her past the end of the row of lilacs. She'd start off like she was happy to go somewhere, but as soon as she reached the end of the lilac hedge, she'd dart to the left and take off at a run. She'd head straight for the lowest hanging branch of the nearest elm tree. As soon as she was sure she'd scraped the rider from her back, she'd stop and graze, waiting to be led back to the house so that we could play the game again.
All those years riding and being knocked from that horses back and I never worried about wearing a helmet or breaking a bone.
When I was about twelve, I started riding regularly with my friend Mandy. Her family had several horses and most were all better behaved than my Roberta pony. I rode a horse named Freckles, and Mandy rode a horse named Sunny. Somewhere along the line, I convinced my father that I needed a big horse of my own. That's how we ended up with Peggy. I don't suppose she was a fantastic horse, but in my eyes she was beautiful and she was all mine. I could ride her for miles and miles and miles whenever I wanted, and I did.
Mandy and I would sometimes meet early in the morning and spend the entire day on horseback. We rode through ponds and irrigation tailwater pits. We rode to town and through the drive-throughs at fast-food restaurants. One time we rode all the way to the north side of Dodge City (we lived about five miles to the south) and stopped and visited friends along the way.
Lately I've been dreaming of being on horseback again. I'm not even sure how I'd manage it. While I can remember the feel and the smell of a horse, and the memory of those leisurely days with nothing to do but ride is a wonderful one, the thought of being on a horse again makes me a bit anxious. I certainly wouldn't be so cavalier about falling off these days.