My mother the equestrian
My mother decided that last week was a stellar time to visit- you know, that ideal time of year when you’ve just returned from two weeks on the road with work and are in the middle of moving houses. Despite the poor timing, we had a pleasant visit which surprisingly included some horseback riding.
I owe my involvement in horses to my mother. As a child, she’d always wanted to ride. When she married my father and they moved onto 60 acres in rural upstate New York, her first order of business was to find a stable for riding lessons. Her second order of business to acquire a somewhat feral Arabian gelding named Romeo. (The family story is that someone my mother worked with at the post office offered to let her have the horse for free if she would come get him. It took my parents five hours to catch him and convince him to get in the trailer.) My mother had just begun to learn how to jump when she became pregnant with me. She stopped riding seriously after I was born.
She bought me my first pony, a very naughty Shetland named Daisy, when I was four years old and signed me up for riding lessons shortly thereafter. I can recall my mother riding sporadically throughout my youth. She or my father would always ride along at the local park when I’d school cross country. She would sometimes join in on 4-H or Pony Club sponsored trail rides. Occasionally, she would saddle up and ride the fence line of our property with me. It was on one of those occasions that she fell and broke her collarbone when the horse she was riding spooked. After that fall, my mom stopped riding altogether. She continued to come with me to horse shows and dust off my boots and sponge off my horse, but she couldn’t be persuaded to go riding.
Somehow, I convinced my mother to climb aboard Gina to cool her out for me when she visited last year. This year, she seemed almost excited at the prospect of riding. She borrowed a pair of Kerrits tights, my paddock boots, and my helmet (plus a saddle that’s much smaller and less forward than my own) and bravely walked around the indoor arena. She’s a lovely rider- she keeps her heels down, looks balanced, and carries her hands low and quiet. You would never guess that she hasn’t ridden with any regularity in nearly thirty years! After Gina carried her around in the most relaxed and pleasant manner you can imagine, my mom got confident enough to try trotting. She had a little trouble with posting at first, but found the rhythm soon enough and spent a few minutes trotting around in both directions.
The next day, my mom and I went on a low key hack in the hay meadow. I rode Moe, who had the good grace not to bounce and wiggle and upset Gina (who, let’s be real, probably would have ignored him save for pinning her ears). We rode along the fence lines, quietly enjoying a beautiful fall day in the Osage Hills.
My mother and I have little in common. She is shy and introverted, while I am a friendly textbook extrovert. We do not read the same sort of books. We have different views on politics and religion. We choose to spend our free time in different ways. We have not seen eye-to-eye on many things for many years. But we have the horses, and that is enough.