“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” – Aristotle. |
It was 11pm when we finally arrived at Stony Lonesome Farm, after what was close to a 3 hour trip. As my 18th birthday present, my lifelong best friend, Janie, had offered to bring my pony down to her farm so we could go riding together for the weekend. Jumping out of her dad’s oversized truck, I ran face first into a wall of freezing wind. It was early February and the biting cold of winter still clung firmly to the air. What’s worse, the wind was blowing about 60 miles an hour and felt like cold needles on my face. I cringed and squeaked a little in response, then, after closing my hands into fits deep inside my jacket’s sleeves, waddled uncomfortably over to the half-full two-horse trailer. I climbed up the side and peered into the small, tinted windows and could vaguely make out the shape of Leia’s big head. The whites of her eyes glowed nervously in the dark, and her pink halter was somewhat visible, but it was hard to see much else. I hopped down and looked back at Janie, who had already opened up the tack room of the trailer to unload Leia’s things. My sleeves became makeshift mittens as I pulled the neck of my jacket up to my mouth, biting down hard to keep it up. We grabbed what we could and shuffled into the barn. The wind shook the metal sheets that served as the barn’s roof so loudly that I could barely hear Janie tell me where to put all my crap.
After a few benumbing trips to the trailer, we’d finally unloaded everything and were ready to get my pony out. I went to the front and opened the door and heard her nicker softly to me. I climbed into the trailer and felt around for the light switch. Leia stretched her neck out to touch her nose to my chest, her eyes still wide and unsure. Janie had left to tell the barn owner that we’d arrived, so I was left to unhitch the dork myself. I went around to the back and let the ramp down and carefully unhooked the bar that held her inside. As the “butt bar” was unhooked, she started trying to back out, thinking she was also unhooked in the front. As the tie caught on her halter, she pulled hard in sudden panic. I quickly went to the front to unhook her and back her out before she could do something "smart" and hurt herself.
Once she was all the way out, she took an audible breath and looked around apprehensively. The wind seemed to be blowing from every direction while she pranced in place beside me, pushing at me with her head impatiently. I lead her over towards the barn and she all but ran me over to get inside. Having returned, Janie looked over at me with an amused expression on her face.
“You still wanna ride?” she asked, looking into her horse, Annie’s stall. I gave a brief laugh, assuming she was being sarcastic. “No really, come on.” She prodded, opening the stall door to get Annie. I laughed again, though this time at our recklessness, and hooked Leia in the crossties.
“It’s a little cold, but ok,” I replied, and she rolled her eyes. We tacked the horses up slowly; the cold made it hard to move. As we slipped our boots on, I was having second thoughts. “You know, Leia’s afraid of the dark, and she’s a bitch to handle when it’s windy..” She just shrugged.
“Okay,” she said, as though it was just something to watch out for as opposed to something that would prevent our ride. I made one of my many awkward faces to express my worry, but went ahead and put her bridle on anyway.
We lead them out into the darkness and I could sense Leia’s immediate change in behavior. Her head flew straight up into the air as she began her loud heavy breathing and I imagined her nostrils were flaring with every breath. She pranced around like a high-strung yearling fresh out of the pasture. A nearby tarp flew up over the wood shavings it covered, spooking Leia into me. I pushed her back and she snorted.
We made our way to the arena and I opened my eyes as wide as possible to combat the surrounding darkness. Leia couldn’t stand still or keep focused longer than a second. She kept running into me, prancing and snorting and overall completely full of herself. Janie held onto her still-as-a-statue Annie then flashed an amused smile, “Don’t die,” she advised. I replied with a fake glare, then gathered my reins and took a leap of faith up on to the saddle on my mare’s back.
As soon as I was on, I could feel her muscles relax, and it was as though her entire body had taken a sigh of relief. She stopped prancing around and stood obediently, waiting for my command. I couldn’t see two feet in front of me, could barely hear Janie and Annie behind us as we started walking into the night.
Leia became my eyes, seeing through the opaque darkness where my eyes became blind. My senses seemed to completely tune in to her, the rest of the world literally cut off. I could feel that she was still afraid, but the steady pressure of my legs seemed to give her the confidence she lacked, and she bravely ventured into the night without a second thought. After a while, we started trotting. I dropped a hand to her neck, stroking softly to encourage her. Once in a while, I would halfway hear something Janie called out to me and at some point we’d started singing the “Time Warp” (I always sing Columbia’s parts and she sings the part of Magenta).
Our eyes started adjusting enough so that we knew what part of the field we were in, and we both decided to let the horses canter down the stretch. I gave Leia her head and let her stretch out beneath me into a canter. I closed my eyes and tangled my fingers into her mane. I was both exhilarated and terrified at the same time. We were running into the unknown together. As the wind pulled us back, we kept pushing forward.
After a long run in the darkness, we walked the horses out and headed back to the barn. Janie checked the temperature on her phone and chuckled dryly as she read the 16°F. We both shuddered before dismounting. Leia became jumpy as soon as I got off and I had to hurry to get her inside the barn.
I couldn’t help thinking about the ride and how special it had felt. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but the bond between horse and rider is almost magical in its strength. For me, it’s as though me and Leia are the same being when we’re riding. Her legs become mine; our breathing and heartbeats feel in sync, and even our thoughts seem to be tied together. Sometimes all I have to do is think and she knows what I want of her. It’s a strange, wonderful feeling that I’ve only felt with her and may not feel with any other horse.
That night itself wasn’t very special, it was merely a reminder to me of how special my horse is to me and how much she trusts me. We’ve grown up together, lived most of our lives together and I can’t imagine my life without her. When people in my life have hurt me, scarred me, and left me behind, she has always been there for me. She is the best thing to ever happen to me. Every day and every night I am thankful that I have her.