My sincere thanks to everyone who gave me such wonderful advice regarding my six year old daughter’s heartbreak over her beloved horse Pete retiring. We made arrangements to go and visit him at his new home and her whole world looks bright again. It will be awhile before we can make the trip, but as long as she knows she’ll see him again, she’s okay.
Last evening she was pretending she was Pete and I had to call out voice commands to walk, trot, canter, halt, and back as she practiced her various gates! Considering she’s only ridden at a walk and trot so far she’s got a pretty good instinct for the three beats of a canter. My guess would be every time she sees a horse cantering she’s making an extensive study of the process. Hmmm…I’m definitely looking into a future full of horse mom activities.
Watching her brings back so many memories of my own horse-crazy youth. We couldn’t afford a horse for me, but my parents did spring for two lessons a week and I took my ‘barn rat’ duties very seriously every day during the summer months. There was one lesson horse in particular who stole my heart. His name was Ritchie. He was a tall, gentle hunter who didn’t have a mean bone in his body. His height was a definite advantage since at 12 I was already the tallest girl in my class (I eventually topped out at 5 10 ½). There was a pony named Cricket who could jump higher than Ritchie, but when I rode her my heels were about level with her knees!
One year, I saved every penny all summer so that I could lease Ritchie during the winter months when the barn didn’t have lessons. I will never forget the day my mother took me to the barn to arrange the lease. I was so excited I could barely sit still. When we went inside to speak with the barn owner, she had sad news for me. Ritchie had already been leased. I remember my heart being somewhere in the vicinity of my shoes and I know that’s how my daughter feels now about Pete. The owner had another horse named My Colonel available for lease, and we agreed to lease him despite (or maybe because of) the tears in my eyes over Ritchie. The owner said ‘he’s not the same horse as last summer,’ which I should have paid more attention to, but I was so desperate for ‘a horse of my own’ I begged my mom, not a horse person herself, and despite her reservations she agreed to let me try it.
Well, it turned out to be a good life lesson in ‘buyer beware.’ Colonel had developed the unfortunate habit of bolting for the barn whenever he got out of the ring or pasture. Unfortunately, one day he bolted and my hand got caught in the lead rope and broke the pinky finger on my left hand. I still have a crooked little finger, but I prefer to think about it as a reminder of Ritchie, whom I loved so much. Although, I do also remember the quite painful ‘buyer beware’ lesson as well!
I’m glad my daughter will have a wonderful, positive experience to remember with her first gentle equine love. As a matter of fact, I put elements of my own youthful experience as well as my daughter’s into my just completed novella, Never Trust a Matchmaking Witch. In this story a young girl has a chance at a free lease of a marvelous horse named, of course, Ritchie. Her Aunt Susan helps make those dreams come true by working in the barn in exchange for the lease and lessons. Of course, the fact that the barn owner is a witch who is matchmaking between Susan and a very handsome, sexy boarder adds fun and spice to the story!
The opening paragraph of Never Trust a Matchmaking Witch should ring true for all the horse moms, aunts, etc. who are helping little ones find their own dreams with horses:
Susan wondered why being a favorite aunt had to involve risking life and limb. For her niece Jennifer the risk was jumping astride an animal which outweighed her by at least half a ton. For Susan the risk was having a heart attack watching the pair of them.
I’m off to get my daughter ready for her lesson on her new mount. I’ll be armed with my camera & hoping to build lots of new happy memories for her.
All the best,