Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Equine Moonshine

Its an addiction. Like alcohol. Like drugs. Like food. Like fill in the blank. The love I have for horses runs deep in my veins and mucks up my head. My first affair was with a horse named Redfawn, owned by childhood friend Meg. Redfawns' buddy was a shetland pony named Quincy. We rode those animals EVERYWHERE. Through fields and pastures, other peoples yards, down streams and into lakes stretching out our bodies lengthwise along the top of the horse while they paddled as best as non- webbed animals can. We usually rode bareback, sometimes with just a halter and some rope. We ran those horses up and down all terrain. We fell off. We got back on. Sometimes we'd pile up a bale or two of hay behind the horse and hop on like lunatic gymnasts. Once we tried to teach the new priest at St Irene's (who had literally just gotten off the plane from India) how to ride. He fell off. We put him back on. That was the exact moment God started calculating the amount of time I would be visiting Purgatory before I get to Heaven.

When I was 12 I bought my own pony for $25. I asked my parents not. I just showed up with a black pony named Lightning. We lived in Warrenville and the tiny little lot we had in town was no place for a pony. It did have a chain link fence around it therefore I saw no problem. My father was amused at my moxie. My mother ? So very NOT amused. But I pouted and I got to keep it. We did move to another home near Elwood Illinois with 5 acres. My father helped me build a stall in the old barn. My mother growled at me whenever I passed. A month later while riding Lighting in a frozen field, bareback and bareheaded, I fell off backwords and knocked myself out. When I awoke on hard ground, my mother took me to the hospital. The EEG done the next day on my pea brain was "slightly abnormal". Mom said "Tell me something I don't know" and took me home. I was shocked to discover she had sold the pony. I was gone less than 24 hours !No grass or unruly ponies ever grew under that womans feet.

That only slowed me down a little. In the next 4 years I purchased 4 more horses. Earned the $ with various jobs, selected the animals myself , paid for several of them on a layaway plan then begged trailering from whomever I could. When I left home at 16 I'm sure my mother was thrilled to see the horses go too. I went without them the next 17 years. When I married Keith, a man with a barn and a little land, I promptly bought Johnny Walker the king of backyard horses. A Morgan crossbred ,I owned him for 14 years. He taught all of us how to ride. Kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. He walked slow for the babies and picked up speed for the teens. He never complained, he was always willing. He needed no warmups to ride. I just got on and took off. He was my horse hero. Last summer I made the decision to put him down. At age 27 he was thin and weak and tired. It was his turn to rest. I miss him every time I come up our drive as he is no longer in that front pasture, running alongside my car .

So at age 50 I am now entering into a new phase of my equine addiction. After giving my mare Sally to my niece Bridgette last week, I can now concentrate on the two horses left. Gus and Nora. And today was the beginning of a new and improved horsey girl. I rode Nora bareback. (but my head, the one that holds what little braincells I have left, was covered with a helmet) She did not run away with me, I did not fall but still I knew that out there somewhere my mother was watching. Half smiling half smirking. Her best look.

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