I guess I came out of the womb in love with horses. My parents tell stories of when I was 3 and my childlike insistence that they stop at every filed that had horses in it so that I could get out and pet them. I can remember my Dad holding me up on the fence as I held out a handful of grass and called to any horse willing to wander over. Apparently the hour-long drive to my Nana and Pop-Pop's house could take over 2 hours depending on how many times they were willing to stop and indulge me.
When I was 10 we moved to Pittstown, NJ, the home of horsemaster extraordinaire George Morris and his Hunterdon Farm. I would bike over there as often as I could, a preadolescent stalker with one goal in mind -- to see the best of the best.
My parents couldn't afford lessons at Hunterdon, but finally agreed to pay for one lesson a month at a barn down the road from our house. I was in heaven, and spent any extra time I was allowed doing any chores I could just for the chance to be near the horses. I had no idea at the time that my trainer, a young woman 13 years my senior, was to become one of the most influential people in my life, and one of my closest friends. She let me spend any free time I had grooming her horses, Lazy and Andrew, cleaning their take, and just breathing in their wonderful horsey smell.
As time progressed my riding improved, I did small, local horse shows, and when my trainer took another, non-horsey job, found a new trainer and bought my own horse. While I loved Pete, he was too much horse for me and eventually I became too afraid to ride him, and the devastation and shame of that caused me to abandon riding during college, although I did work at a local hunting stable just to be around the horses.
I did the college thing, the career thing, and the Mom thing, the whole time dreaming of horses. I spent as much time as I could with my old trainer, who now had a daughter of her own that rode in the Big Eq classes. When I was around my friend's daughter's horses, I was peaceful and happy -- all the stress from life would melt away.
Just past my mid-thirties I decided to just do it -- get back into riding. One lesson a week became two, then my 6 year old daughter started taking lessons, then my son did, and somewhere in the middle of all that I found myself leasing a wonderful Dutch Warmblood mare, who has given me and my family so many lessons in love it's impossible to count them.
When things get crazy, the best thing I can do is go to the barn and just kiss her soft muzzle and breathe with her, and everything goes away, and all is right with the world. Just like when I was a little girl in my Dad's arms, feeding handfuls of grass to horses in their fields.