Why won’t you just grow out of horses?
16 March 2016
I’m sure my mum asked me this question a hundred times, and wished for it privately a thousand times more. I have no idea how I ended up a horse riding crazy child. I have no idea when it even started. I just always, always loved them and ever since I can remember I desperately wished for my own pony.
No one in my family was the slightest bit horsey, and neither them nor I have any idea where my obsession came from.
I would stare out of the car window as we drove around the suburbs and imagine a galloping horse running alongside the family car, jumping other cars, fences, hedges, flying alongside me with mane and tail streaming.
I had a special shoe box that I covered in coloured paper and Contact, in which kept cut out pictures of horses. I’m pretty sure I did this because I saw a character who had such a box in a movie- was it National Velvet?- and I wanted to be just like them.
I asked my dad to make my Barbie horse a horse float, so that my Barbie could take him everywhere she went in her motorhome.
Every Christmas I would wish and wish for a pony, and even sweep out the courtyard corner where I knew I would be able to keep him in a make shift stable in case he arrived Christmas morning.
I spent my pocket money on all the horse magazines I could find, and every library book I took out had something to do with horses. The magazines were carefully filed and looked after, the library books borrowed over and over again.
I drew horses on everything, my school books, at home, over and over, Arabian shaped heads with flowing manes and prancing legs.
I had a school friend that rode every week at the famous Horse Education Centre run by the Jeuffrey’s. I was desperately jealous of her, and when I did occasionally get to stay on a school holiday camp, I never wanted to go home.
I rode at all the old places around Perth over the years- Springfield, Broadacres, HEC, Metropolitan Riding School and Snaffles. When I was a teenager, I volunteered at Carine, then Capricorn RDA centres. When I got my license, I started grooming for an event rider in the swan valley in exchange for the odd lesson.
I was 18 years old, getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, when most of my friends were just getting home from a night out, and I’m sure my mum still hoped I would grow out of it.
I’m almost 40, and yesterday my mum sent a text to my husband- “What would Anita like for Christmas? Something Horsey perhaps?” My parents have never bought me any gifts to do with horses before in my life- in fact, my mum has only met my horse twice. I almost fell over.
Now, I take great pleasure in being the naughty aunty of my niece and nephews and my friend’s kids and offering pony rides whenever I can. I take those kids out and show them just how awesome these magical creatures are. (My pony loves it- he turns into a big old softie, even though the day before he bucked when I rode him and wouldn’t stand still while I was saddling up. With the kids, he doesn’t move an inch, his eyes go all soft, and when they are up on his back he wouldn’t dare to spook at that flapping plastic bag that almost killed him the day before.)
Because, like most horse mad people, I believe that loving and caring for a horse adds an immeasurable something to your life as a child.
While I don’t have kids myself, I can see the difference in the kids my husband teaches at high school, who run ragged, are cheeky, looking for trouble (and often finding it), and the horse mad teens who are out riding and competing at pony club on the weekends.
There is a maturity about them.
A sense of responsibility that only comes from being the one looking after another living soul.
An awareness of others relying on them to do the right thing.
An understanding that nothing comes without persistence and practice.
And that one should never boast. A pony’s greatest gift is the gift of humility to its rider.
They discover a lifelong love of learning, a desire to keep improving and being better at anything they try their hands at.
They have a unique self confidence that comes from being able to pilot and partner a living creature 10 times their size.
They get into it and get the job done, and are certainly never afraid to get their hands dirty.
They make lifelong friends who have similar values and hold the same things dear.
I honestly think that loving another living creature in such a pure and innocent way makes you a better person. You grow to be more empathetic, less demanding, more forgiving, and importantly, more accepting of your own role when things go wrong.
If I can give that same gift to one of the children in my little circle of influence, it would kinda feel like my legacy.
No, I’ll never grow out of horses. I’ll never stop dreaming about them, never stop loving them, never stop admiring their beauty, their soul, their many, many gifts to us all.
Why would you want me to?