Horses will break your heart. They will. It’s not their fault, and it’s rarely your fault, either. They just do. Maybe they don’t love you back. Maybe they don’t turn out to be all that you hoped they would be. Maybe they frustrate you into doing things you regret. Maybe they try so hard and they just can’t make it. Maybe they make you look at yourself in a new light. Maybe they die. Whatever the case may be, if you’re a horse person, and you’re reading this, you know what I’m talking about. Maybe it wasn’t a messy, huge break that took years to heal. Maybe it was just a little crack- a little chip that eventually healed over. Maybe the break is still there, just a hairline fracture that you only feel every now and then. Or, maybe you’re like me and your break was so bad that you just walked away. I’ve taken a full year to heal, but I still feel those weaknesses, no matter how careful I am, no matter what braces I wear, no matter how much casting I think I’ve protected myself with- they are still there. Not to say I’m scared. I don’t think I’m scared of horses. I have a healthy respect for them, and I’m very aware of what they’re capable of doing to me, both physically, and emotionally. I just have a problem trusting them. Or maybe I have a problem trusting myself around them. Regardless, there’s a gap there. And there’s been a gap for a little while now.
Last week, after careful hints being dropped, casual invites, small pushes, and a little teasing, my very good friend Katie Martin (I’ll post some pictures from her wedding that I shot last summer in another post sometime soon), finally convinced me to come up and ride her horse, Sundance. I’d met him the previous fall and he was a dream for my shoot- not a foot out of place. He was quiet, and pretty. He loved to work and he loved attention. She offered for me to ride him anytime and I shrugged it off with a very gracious “thanks, but…” and quickly changed the subject. Well, the time finally came. Sundance has been for sale for awhile and the right buyer came along: he’d be leaving soon, so it was now or never. I geared up- boots, warm jacket, old jeans, gloves, tuque. I was set. I brought my camera gear and tricked myself into thinking I was going up for a shoot. I did take some pictures. Katie rode first, and then it was my turn. I’d been on three horses in the last year: Rey, who was old and wonderful and perfect. Shelayla who was young, and spicy, only listened to her mother, and made me appreciate living. And George, my sister’s gelding, who was, well, George. He packed me around no problem at a nice slow walk and jog. Sundance is big. He’s at least 22hh. And the saddle was so teeny. So I rode. And I smiled when my calves hurt so bad that they were shaking. And I grinned when I felt my inside hip rock forward when he started cantering. And I giggled when I said ‘whoa’ and almost came off over his head when he stopped dead. And I looked at Katie, who was way down at the other end of the ring, who didn’t care what I was doing, because she knew her horse would take perfect care of me, just like she said he would. And then I wiped away the tears that were welling up in my eyes, put my leg on, and asked Sundance to walk again. And he just stood there. And a few of those cracks just magically disappeared.
Here are some pictures from the day Sundance changed everything. They’re not of me riding (are you kidding me?!), but I want you all to see what a fantastic horse he is. And he’s just so pretty. Katie’s cute, too.