Horses have a special place in my life. Not always a healthy place, but a place.
For the last several years, folks send me pictures of horsesóand I love them. Today, MJ Fredrick, author and friend, sent me a video of what would have happened if the great Secretariat raced against the new Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah. Fascinating, butóhow do these lovely folks know? Why do I get horses, not cats, or dogs, or exotic animals?
Could be that I have horses in every book I write. Or that I posted a lot about them. Did I post about dreaming that I got to kiss Secretariatís nose, and that his groom, Eddie Sweat, let me lead him around? I know I posted a picture of two of the ponies we had when I was a child.
But how does that connect with a lifelong passion for horses?
Before I had ponies, I rode my momís great Dane. Thatís very bad for dogs, who arenít able to deal with a childís weight on their back, so Smokey, a beautiful black Shetland pony, came into my childhood early on.
Smokey taught me to train him, and could buck, salute, pray, work off a longe rein, rear on command, chase bad guysóhe became famous around our school in short order.
Meanwhile I fought friendsí ignorance (and sometimes lack of interest) by trying to educate them. Palominos arenít black. Ponies are not baby horses. A flying cabriole, one of the ďairs above groundsĒ performed by the Lipizzans and the Spanish Riding School, involves a horse rearing, then thrusting himself forward and up off the ground, propelling himself by kicking his hind legs out violently.
Since my friends clearly hadnít paid attention to the Lippizans in the movie Patton, I demonstrated. Right there by the water fountain, in the hall at Mt. Carmel Elementary School.
I leaped into the air and thrust my legs out violently. Note to self: I donít have hind legs. I wound up flat on the floor, my face smashed into the cream tile, while Kathy and Donald laughed their heads off. Probably the first and last attempt at the cabriole a human being ever made.
Unfortunately, though, that embarrassment didnít keep me from schooling Smokey over jumps. He used to love jumping fences to visit the ladies before he was gelded, but afterwards he didnít see any point in going over bars. Since he seemed to be afraid of hurting himself or didnít understand, I carefully placed the pine pole on the concrete blocks and explained the concept. Then I turned on his music and sent him around the ring. He did beautifully until he got to the jump. He balked again.
So I did what any good instructor does: I modeled. I trotted around the ring, got to the pole, and balked. Then I backed up a few steps, ran at it againóand tangled my feet, falling on my face in the red Georgia clay. Kathy and Donald werenít there, that time, but my face took a beating again.
Itís a wonder I didnít come to hate horses, as often as I hurt myself around them, but they attract me, inspire me, worry me, are part of me. Thereís no good reason; my mom was afraid of horses, and my father used them only to impress. But still, horses are part of who I am.
Someday, Iíll write a full length story without a horse. Really I will. And meanwhile, I think Iíll go watch Secretariat win the Belmont again.