Don’t tell me you haven’t done it. You know, when you were eight and adored horses more than anything, you turned yourself into one. Well, from the waist down, at least. From the waist up you were a phenomenal rider who could confidently handle the wildest steed, who never fell off, and who always won the blue ribbon.
My friend and I were about ten when we started riding at the same barn, often in the same group lessons. We hung out at the barn for hours, cleaning stalls, cleaning tack, learning anything we could and just spending time with the horses.
And after lessons were done for the day, the horses were fed, and the barn was closing down, we’d return to the riding ring. As the sun waned and the shadows crept their way across the sand, we pretended we were horses. We did dressage, we tackled the fences in the ring, and eventually we began raising the heights, pushing ourselves to our limits.
We spent many summer nights that way, galloping around the ring, exhausting ourselves and occasionally landing hard in the sand when we overestimated our jumping talents. Jump poles are much harder to knock down when you’re not a 1,000-pound animal, but we always got up and tried again.
We held horse shows. We created our dream horses. And we loved it. For us, it was another way to immerse ourselves in the world of horses. My time spent with horses was otherwise limited; it’s an expensive hobby that my family really couldn’t afford. But I could pretend, and I could dream.
We probably looked like we were nuts. If anyone watched us skipping across the ring? Well, I cringe at the thought. But we didn’t care. For us, horses were an obsession. We’d do anything for more time in the saddle.
It’s funny, looking back, how certain memories fade and other, seemingly insignificant moments stay with us for life. Well over 20 years later I can still remember one particular night of “riding.” The sun was warm but not uncomfortable, and my brown paddock boots were covered in ring dust. My friend and I galloped from the ring, across the gravel driveway, and through the field next to the barn. We’d already ridden, cleaned multiple stalls, and fed, yet we still had the energy to run.
I wish I could remember more of those days and my adventures at the barn. I was lucky enough to ride there through elementary, middle, and high school, until I eventually left for college. I did a lot of growing up there, and it was very much my second home. When it was eventually shut down and partially demolished, I mourned the fact that a part of my childhood was now gone.
Some of my days spent there stand out vividly, but I also wonder how many precious memories I’ve simply forgotten. But something tells me I’ll always carry my memory of that sunny summer evening with my best friend, as we urged our mounts forward, galloped off, and flew.