Sunday morning I awoke with anticipation. All night long I was up and down, coming to, in and out of eyes closed, wondering what it would be like. I didn’t have the stomach to eat breakfast once out of bed. I showered , got my boots on, and grabbed a granola bar and an apple to take with me. With no appetite, I ate the granola bar on the way simply because I knew I should.
At the barn I felt the excitement stirring within, and I couldn’t wait to see Chief. We are bonding, he and I. Everyone says we are made for each other, especially my daughter, and coming from her makes it all the more true. (Kids have stellar intuition.) He was finishing his breakfast when I approached. Slowly he moved back, turned around, and then looked at me. I held out my hand and said, “Come on, boy. Today is a big day.” Then, he approached bringing his nose right up to my palm for a loving scratch.
Chief and I are a lot alike. He can be a leader when he needs to be, but is just as good of a follower. He’s not aggressive and doesn’t like to argue unlike the mares that surround him. He’s strong and stoic when protecting his fellows but also likes to be protected in return. He’s experienced many things in his life but is also still teachable and always willing to learn. He loves affection and returns it fully. When his basic needs are met, he’s content; there are no games to be played or hoops to jump through so he “behaves”. We speak each other’s language when we are together, and the longer this lasts, the stronger it will grow.
My friend and I saddled up our ponies-she, the well-traveled trail rider, and me, the single mom with horsey dreams. As we ascended up the hill I’ve so often watched all the other barn gals do, waving good-bye and hollering, “Have a great ride!” I felt like a child who finally gets to hang out with the grown-ups. Everything was fresh and new: the asphalt street, the house with the noisy neighbors, the fields–as if I’d never seen them before. The “big girls” told me about the trails, told me how much fun they were and how much I’d love them once I went.
But, to be told a story is one thing….to live it is another.
We crested the hill above the barn, Athena, Chief’s sister, leading the way, and there it was….the trail head. Like waters parting for Moses it felt like the field was parting for us. The brush spread into two parallel sandy paths twisting and turning….a little to the left at first, then to the right, and to the left again. The long wild grass tickled Chief’s nose, and he couldn’t resist grabbing a snack here and there as we entered into the trees…eucalyptus trees-nature’s towers. Beautiful towers that majestically accepted us. “Welcome to our kingdom!”
As we walked along I gazed out into the surrounding palace. Serenity hugged me tightly with each step, and voices hushed. Slight rustling of leaves, a little breeze picking up in the treetops, and bird songs. Over logs and through crevices Chief kept me safe with each step. “Wow, this is so amazing!” I couldn’t hold my wonder in any longer, and my friend answered, “Isn’t it, though!” She knew, she already knew, and now, so did I.
At times I was nervous, at times I was mesmerized. There were moments I had to stop and take deep breaths. This wasn’t trail riding of the pay-your-way variety. We were on our own with only the unexpected to expect. I was proud to be riding Chief. I was proud of myself.
About an hour later we were back at the trail head beginning our descent, and we came across two other riders from our barn, one of whom has become a good friend of mine. “So, how was it? That is a pretty big smile on your face!” And, it was. If she could have seen the smile in my heart, it was even bigger.
Descending down the hill my partner exclaimed, “There’s the barn! See?! You did it!”
Needless to say, I let out a whopping, “Yahoo!” as Chief and I rounded into the barn alley. More gals were out by then and were able to celebrate the “newest trail riding member” with us.
Once I pulled Chief’s tack I hugged him around his big ol’ neck , kissed his nose, and gave him a couple of carrots to show my appreciation. He looked pretty darn proud of himself, too…
Yep, made for each other.
It may not seem like much to any of you who have ridden horses all your lives, but for someone who just began this journey three years ago with no horse knowledge in the least, it was super exciting! Friends, it’s never too late to try something new. It’s never too late to follow your dreams…to allow yourself childlike wonder. So, chuckle a bit and answer me this….anyone up for a ride?