Unlike most women, equestrians not included, my first love wasn’t a blonde-haired blue-eyed boy who picked me a flower at recess. Cue the music, dim the lights, and imagine “Endless Love” is playing during this meet-cute where I found my first love.
None of us are really aware when we meet our first love, unless it’s a Hollywood style love-at-first-sight. For me, it was the latter. There’s not much to prepare a pony-loving little girl in meeting a magical steed that may make all her dreams come true. When my then instructor took me by the hand and walked me down the barn aisle, I remember feeling excited. Butterflies. And maybe a little bit of nervousness.
“Do you want to meet your lesson pony?” The instructor asked. I can only imagine the whiplash I gave myself nodding my reply.
“Shenny,” She said softly and sweetly, coaxing the horse in the stall in front of us to turn around, and make his way to the door. Out popped a face I wasn’t expecting. At that point in my life, I was fairly sure all horses were going to look like Black Beauty. You can imagine, then, my surprise when a gray and white face appeared, pink nostrils flaring as he reached down to smell my hair.
I remember looking up, catching a glimpse of his deep brown eyes, and I distinctly remember falling in love in that very moment.
Shenandoah, Shenny, was an Appaloosa cross of some kind, heavy on the appaloosa. Getting on in years, he had a sway back that looked just darling to sit on. Complete with a roached mane that was getting a little too long, and a lovely velvet-soft pink nose. C’mon, sounds beautiful right?
The older gelding, we joked, was so ugly he was cute. A good horse is never a bad color (Thanks, John Lyons) but his coat pattern struck me as very silly, and I adored it.
When you’re horse shopping, they say don’t fall in love with the first one you see. However, as a little girl who has no concept of neither horse ownership nor what riding someone else’s horse is, I was smitten. She did say your lesson pony, right? So smitten, in fact, at another lesson I pitched the most royal tantrum in my career. Why? Because, of course, I wasn’t able to ride Shenny. Believe me, the pictures of said tantrum are legendary.
Shenny was kind, trustworthy, confidence-building, and patient. He frequently visited his youth, throwing a “buck” (more like a quick kick) after every cavaletti. The guy had a spunky heart, a sense of humor, and wisdom to take care of me. Everything your first love should be.
They say your first love never quite leaves you. I would have to agree. To this day, I can still see his kind face resting over his stall door as if quietly asking for a little girl to fall in love with a life time of horses.