Monday, May 27, 2013

A Horse of a Different Color

I have always been horse crazy. And I don't mean, "mommy, daddy, can I have a pony?" horse crazy. I mean horse crazy to the point that when I was in third grade, my best friend and I started budgeting for how we could have our own horse. Ignoring the fact that our allowances were very small, and we lived in two different states, we spent hours planning where we could save money (our moms, for example, could make the horse blankets so we wouldn't have to buy them). We called stables near her house to get an idea of what it would cost to board a horse there.

She and I had taken riding lessons together on the air force base where we met, and fairly quickly decided that one of the ponies there was related to Misty of Chincoteague. Bucky had the markings and everything. We spent hours in lessons and going on trail rides, and were devastated when our brothers (who were also best friends) told us that they turned horses into glue. Even when we lived in different states, we continued to do things like go to riding camps together, or plan on buying a horse. I was horribly jealous that she got to move to Kentucky, whereas I was in Tennessee, and tried to comfort myself with the fact that the hoof of the horse on our map of the United States dangled from Kentucky into Tennessee.

I tried to keep up with riding once I got older, and kept taking lessons through high school. When I got into college, though, it got more complicated, requiring a car and coordinating with people I didn't know. And then when I graduated, it became a luxury I couldn't afford, but one I still miss and plan to get back to when I make more than I do now.

Given this history, it's not surprising how many books on horses I have. Given my inability to finish non-fiction books, it's also probably not surprising how many I haven't read. And Beautiful Jim Key wasn't exactly the best written book I've ever read. To be honest, it wasn't even the best written book on horses I've ever read. But the story is fascinating PLUS it takes place relatively close to my hometown. So the dangling hoof was right.

It's hard to imagine a horse that seemingly could read and write and do basic math. At the same time, there is such a preponderance of literature on the bond between horses and humans, why should we be surprised to find out that they are smart? Anyone who has spent any time around animals knows that each is unique, each has its own personality. I doubt I could teach Cassie to read, but I see the ability to learn and reason, if at a simpler level.

It also reawakened my desire to have that bond with a horse. I had my own horse for a couple of years, but she was flighty and I was hitting my awkward years, and it made for a bad combination. But a horse that I saw every day, that knew me for me (and didn't take peppermints to get in from the field)... it might not be in the cards for right now, but I hope someday I can actually manage it. And this time, I won't need my mom to make the horse blankets.