The horse bug doesn’t discriminate, though it certainly seems to favor little girls who still believe in unicorns and fairies.
The point is, you and I- the afflicted bug-carriers- know darn well that once well and truly bitten, no amount of antibiotics, holistic potions, or IV flushes will affect a cure.
I belong to the crowd of gals who were bitten smack-dab in the middle of our unicorn and fairy stage. And like so many others, my sickness was full blown, and almost too much to bear since the rest of my family were completely immune.
Were it not for one significant figure in the landscape of my life, I may well have channeled my growing passion into the available pets and grown up to be a full-blown, crazy cat lady. Only with dogs. And also birds. I digress.
There was that significant, amazing, world changing individual (dismiss any images you may have of Mother Theresa surrounded by hungry orphans, or George Washington, a regal silhouette, backlit by the misty waters of the Delaware). The hero stepping onto the big screen of my mind (rather grudgingly) is… Chestnut.
A chunky pony.
(The good Mother and Georgie are exiting stage left- no doubt with some major shoulder-shrugging going on)
Though there wasn't a thing regal, or saint-like about her, Chestnut really did change my world…
My neighbors were nice people, who had three sons and a massive German Shepherd named Duke.
The youngest son, John, was the same age as my older sister, but with only two years difference between us, could sometimes be counted on to play with my little brother and me.
I have to say, things back then were certainly different. I can’t imagine being at ease with my children playing with an older boy whose favorite saying was, “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger,” but either my mom wasn’t really listening when I relayed that quotable quote or else she figured he was on to something.
One ordinary day while my brother and I were watching He-Man after school, John just showed up out of the blue outside our house.
The instant I glanced out those glass doors is etched into my memory.
He was smilingly perched in a little red sulky hitched to a fuzzy, chubby pony.
“Powers of Grey-Skull” forgotten, I flew off that couch like it was on fire!
I couldn’t believe it! This kid never even mentioned liking horses!
Now he had his own pony?! What in the world?!
At his invitation, I got in the sulky beside him and off we went. Amidst the clip-clopping of Chestnut’s hooves he told me how some cousin’s sister’s uncle’s hairdresser needed to re-home the pony, and so that’s how he ended up with her...some kids had all the luck!
And so it began…
She was a versatile little welsh pony, able to drive, and ride, as well as evade capture like a stealth ninja. Much of the reason John was unwilling to get the pony from the pasture when I requested (with not an ounce of whiny desperate girl-child in my voice) was due to that fact. And also because once I was in the saddle, you could just count me out for any games that the other kids might have in the works.
I learned tons of “riding- lessons” from Chestnut:
· Why we don’t forget to check the cinch;
(accidental trick riding is not a popular discipline)
· Why we check the saddle blanket for burrs or prickers;
(accidental trick riding- take two…still not popular)
· Why bits work better when placed OVER the tongue.
(I didn’t even know you could do that!) … and many more.
As stubborn, lazy and rather irritable as she could be, Chestnut carried me around while my dreams were unfurling, and all those feelings a horse-person has when riding began to wrap snuggly ‘round my heart.
As an adult, I’ve learned that if too much time passes between rides, the everyday stresses of life tend to build-up, and those special feelings can fade.
But because of the solid foundation of love built on that little pony, I know that the comfort of dreams fulfilled will find me again the next time I saddle up.
Without Chestnut and her boy, John, I might not have had a chance to learn those things. And that’s how a chubby little pony changed my world.
So… here's to all of those ponies and horses who belong to someone else, making a place in the hearts of those who know them.
To the ones who carry- not just little girls and boys on their backs, but- fresh new dreams that can last a lifetime.
My hat is off to them all, because without them, some of us may never have learned that- while we thought unicorns and fairies were cool- riding a real horse would give us something to believe in forever.