a looooong introduction
I’m returning to the horse world after a lengthy absence. Reading the posts on this forum has been great, and has made me take a look at the reasons I stayed away so long, so I’m going to share some of them, in part just to clarify things for myself.
I was obsessed with horses from birth, but my parents were baffled by it and wouldn’t pay for lessons. The summer I was 9 I rode my bike about 4 miles every day to a trail-riding place, and after helping out all day I’d get to go on a trail ride. From the age of twelve I worked in order to afford riding lessons. As my skill increased I worked in the barn and taught riding to support my habit. I started riding jumpers, and in the mid-90’s I competed at the International Intercollegiate Equestrian Games, which was completely awesome J
My competitive career was looking pretty good. I even quit my first year of university to work with horses full-time. Then one day, my coach asked me to take the edge off a school horse who was a bit fresh. I was cooling off, walking quietly on a loose rein with my feet hanging out of the stirrups, when snow slid off the arena roof. The loud ‘whoosh’ triggered an instantaneous, huge buck in the horse I was riding, and I hit the ground before I even knew what happened. I suffered a fractured vertebra and crushed disc in my lower back, and had to have back surgery followed by a year of intensive physiotherapy before I was relatively mobile again. My doctors told me I was lucky, and told me my riding career was over. I was twenty-one. But I’m nothing if not persistent, so I tried to go back to riding. I couldn’t do it, though. I’d lost that edge, that fearlessness you need to compete at your best. Plus, I kept re-injuring myself; my back wasn’t strong enough. After a few years, I gave up. I was managing a 42-stall barn at the time, and I loved each of the horses in it, but the real heartbreak came when I had to sell my own horse, Jamie. I had no choice--I couldn’t even do the barn chores anymore, and I had no other skills. I spent months finding him the perfect home, but it nearly killed me to let him go.
I returned to school, earned a couple of degrees, and turned my back on horses completely. I went to work on Bay Street (the Canadian equivalent of Wall Street) as a business analyst. It was a good job, but I was unhappy, although I didn’t admit it to myself. I was determined to make myself into a new person. With the clarity of hindsight, I realize that I was emotionally traumatized by the loss of the sport & career that I loved. Duh, right? But somehow during those blurry years that was something I never considered.
Then came the biggest change of all--I had kids. And from the time my daughter could talk, she was fascinated by horses. I had not a single picture, ornament or reminder of horses at home, and I never spoke about my past as a rider, yet she was mesmerized by all things equine. As my son got older, he was the same. When my daughter was 3 she was quite nervous of animals (wouldn’t even pet a bunny), but one day we went to a farm and she ran up to a draft horse and hugged its leg. I picked her up and started explaining, “This kind of horse is called a Belgian. His colour is called chestnut,” etc. So I began to rediscover the world of horses, through my kids’ eyes. And one day, I woke up and started writing. I know it sounds all melodramatic, but I can’t overstate the case here - this story was demanding to be told. I wrote during my kids’ naps, I wrote late into the night, I wrote in my head while driving (which probably made me a menace on the road). As a single mother, I had no free time, but even that didn’t stop me. After spending well over a decade unable to admit how much I missed having horses in my life, I spent a year completely immersed in my make-believe horse world. And it was weirdly freeing, because since then it somehow doesn’t hurt anymore. I love watching my children learn to ride, and I’ve started riding occasionally myself.
Yikes, I’m writing a novel here. Sorry, occupational hazard ;) So there you go, now you know way more about me than you ever wanted to, I bet. I look forward to getting to know you, too!