Last night I went out for our riding lessons-my daughter and I. We both own a horse…well, I own them, and a mini horse as well. I love horses and I have since I was a little girl. I was one of those horse crazy,” I can plan out how much it costs and we can keep it at Randy’s house and I’ll ride my bike there everyday before school to feed it and my best friend will chip in too because she wants to share with me” kind of girl.
No, my parents said.
Until I was about 11. I had been a long term ice skater and was fearful of my instructor, an abusive man who terrified me. I left many indirect hints that I wanted out of the situation but the image my mother held of me was of some combination of Janet Lynn and Peggy Fleming, and I knew I couldn’t disappoint her, so I stuck it out. Then one day, in terrified tears, I explained what should have been obvious. I hated ice skating. Not the skating for pleasure with your friends, but the competitive skating. “I’ll make you sit on the ice until you understand you will FALL if you don’t land that jump right”, my instructor screamed at me. I didn’t want to fall. I didn’t want to skate. I didn’t want his face in my face. I hated him. At the end of my career, I was ten years old. I had skated since age 4, obediently getting up in the summer hours at 4 am to pursue an activity that I dreaded.
My mother, while blind to all my indirect signals, did not force me to continue to skate. I got my riding lessons about a year later, and I was so happy. I didn’t own a horse at first, of course. That’s too big an investment, and many kids say they want to do things and drop them when they find out what their fantasy entails. But I had my lessons, at a large riding stable in the desert, located at a fancy Biltmore property. My mother herself had ridden, and her sister as well, so she soon got back in the spirit, even investing in a truck and trailer and a couple of horses to train and sell…she pitched in on some deals with my trainer. She had a CB radio in our truck, and she used the call name “Mother Nature”, a play on her own last name. She ridiculously painted the trailer with house paint, so it looked sort of weird, but she was very proud of her trailer painting job. She returned to riding herself, and did quite well at it, too. I think she was happier not fitting me into a box.
I did eventually get my first horse, and then two more..not at the same time, my mother was stretching financially, and later told me that my father didn’t know how much she spent. Sometime, another day, I will write about the loss of my first horse, but I’m not up for it at this moment. It puts me in a place of sadness and loss which I’m trapped in nearly all the time, and one might argue, that tragedy was the beginning of a life long theme.
It looks quite likely that i will lose the horses again. When my daughter goes to school, if she goes to college, then her horses will be sold or leased. I am paycheck to paycheck now, and after he left, her father snuck out from under a share of those bills, and I only asked for a share of her expenses, not mine. He hasn’t said no outright, but he has set up the situation so he doesn’t have to do it. I can’t afford it, and I don’t have the time to attend to all three of them. More grief. More self-doubt, perhaps I should never have allowed it. “Horses are expensive” my friends shake their heads in disbelief that I would have ever gone down this road. Yes, they are. And so is your Jetta, and your trip to Florida, and when is your spouse going back to work again, anyway? And don’t your kids have their own cars?
My daughter gave up the car for the horse. It’s harder, but we love them. I hope I can find good homes for them; but maybe that’s not what I want. I don’t know what I want.