For some people, horses are mysterious and magical creatures. For others, they are an ingredient. I live in the first camp.
I met my first horse, Apache Miss, when I was about 10 years old. My grandfather, Carl Drake, bought her for me to learn to ride. Every day after school, he would drive to our house in his old pick-up truck, grab me and off we would go to spend time with Apache Miss. He taught me to saddle her and ride her at a walk and a trot. We never made it to the canter.
On the last day of school, when my brothers and I rode our bicycles to our grandparents’ house to show off our final grades, we found my grandfather lying in his driveway. We called our mother, and she rushed over. She told me he said, “My head…My head.” To the best of my knowledge, those were his last words. And that was the end of our riding lessons. He suffered a massive stroke and died a few weeks later.
My father gave Apache Miss to me for my 11th birthday, but my dad had no interest in horses. He’s not in the ingredient camp, but horses are neither mysterious nor magical to him. My mother was afraid of horses, but to her credit, she found a young woman who gave me riding lessons. I sold Apache Miss when I was in high school. Letter jackets, a drivers license and the possibility of a boyfriend were way more interesting than horses.
During the winter of 2011, I made the mistake of browsing Craigslist. For sale was a registered paint mare, in desperate need of a good home, for the grand sum of $100. If not bought, she would be shot.
That was a dark winter for me, and I remember thinking that owning a horse would give me something to look forward to. I desperately needed something to look forward to. So, I called a family meeting and proposed that we rescue this mare. Chris and my youngest daughter told me absolutely not. I thanked them for their opinions and emailed the owner the next day: I would take her.
I didn’t tell Chris I had done this for about two weeks. Finally, I broke down and said in my most remorseful (and humbled) voice, “I have something to tell you…”
I sent the woman $100 and she delivered the 7-year-old mare to a local stable. When we moved to this community two months later, I met Lacy for the first time. Lacy’s knee joints are fused. Perhaps she could be ridden, but she shouldn’t. She shakes because she hurts, and just when I think it’s time to put her down, she runs off to chase another horse. I ask the people with whom I board her if they think she is in pain. They aren’t sure because she’s so active. If she hurt, would she traipse after the other horses? I don’t know the answer to this.
When I drive out to see Lacy and I call her name, she whinnies a hello and leaves the herd to come to me. I put her halter on and lead her to the barn. I brush her and tell her my secrets and my worries while Norah Jones croons in the background. It’s therapy of a sort. It’s also pure magic.
Arms and hands inside the cart, please. Next: Josey and her horses