The Dream Begins

Merlin accepting carrots and love.

After dreaming of horses all my life, the inner child in me would finally get to ride.

The Dream of Riding Horses Begins To Come True

But finding someone willing to take on a 50’s, fat, beginning rider was almost impossible.

In the late spring of 2011, I finally made good on a promise to my 11-year-old daughter, Lizzie, that she could go horseback riding.  Lizzie is an old soul and has had “horses” on her buck-it list since the age of three.  For the next eight years she reminded me of her desire to ride and for the next eight years I came up with excuses why she could not.

Having recently faced (another) move, she was feeling out of place in our new city.  The subject of horses came up again.  This time, I listened and took action.  By now, the threat of an ex-husband showing up on my doorstep with a gun had passed.  And, if he did, I had a new husband that would soundly kick his …

It was time to get on with my life.

Google “Beginning English Horseback Riding”

I Googled a variety of horsie terms.  Most of the results in my area were too far, too expensive, or too “upper crust.”  One place even required you to apply for the privilege of belonging.  If accepted, there as a hefty annual fee and the requirement to either be rich, or dress and act like you were rich.

After making several disheartening phone calls, I was about to give up.  What my daughter did not know is that when making calls for her, I also asked the facilities I contacted if they could work with an “overweight, older woman who had never ridden.”  Some were more polite than others, but all the barns I called were clear:  they were only interested in my daughter.  Only one place I emailed mentioning the mother-daughter need, even returned my email.  They were a rescue league who (wisely) suggested I not consider buying a rescue, much less any horse, until I had at least a year of riding experience under my belt and had learned how to care for a horse.

I had just about exhausted my Google search within a 30 minute driving range when one last Google “search nearby our home address” uncovered a barn that had not shown up in my other horsie searches.  This time, instead of calling, I decided we would just get in the car and go there.  Maybe if they saw how desperate I was, and that I was a good mom who wanted to do something with my beautiful daughter they would take pity on me.  Maybe if I sucked in my stomach and could look smaller …

I owed it to my child to at least try.  Or, at least prove to her I had tried, because she seemed doubtful I could not find a place for her to take riding lessons.

Down A Dirt Road To Horse Heaven

We got lost.  The Google directions were misleading and frankly, I am the most directionally challenged person on the planet anyhow.  We turned down an alleyway that appeared to be a dead end.  I decided to go to the end and turn around, defeated.  But it did not dead end — there was a sharp left turn that led up a dirt road.

“I’m sorry sweetie,” I told my daughter, it looks like we are lost.  We will try again tomorrow.”  Lizzie was crestfallen.  She asked me to please go up the dirt road — she was just sure it was there — somewhere.

I said it was a waste of time.  She shot waves of heart-piercing guilt right through me with her sweet, sad face.

I turned up the dirt road.

And there a few hundred yards down the road, out of nowhere, were the gates to horse lover’s heaven:  Far West Farms.

Tucked away behind the freeway and an industrial park, there was a secret oasis of trees, green, and horses.  Horses!!

We had stumbled upon a lovely riding facility that would change our lives for the better.

The Sweet, Wonderful Smell Of Horses And The Scary Sound Of My Own Voice

When we got out of the car I heard it:  the magical sound of a horse whinnying.  I could smell them — I do not mean the smell of an unkempt barn, Far West Farms was spit-spot clean.  I mean the smell of horse sweat and hay.  I had almost forgotten how heady the scent of horses is — I had not been around them since the summer of 1972.  My heart started racing.

As we entered the barn we saw a ring and a rather handsome young man riding a rather beautiful horse that seemed gigantic to me.  I had forgotten how big these wonderful creatures are.  Did I really want my daughter on something so large and powerful?  The mommy fear was starting over win out over the little girl in me.

(Within a year, I would buy my daughter a horse that was even bigger.)

We apparently looked lost.  The man riding road over and asked if we needed help.  I told him I was looking for a place for my daughter to take beginning riding lessons.  Then, the inner child in me blurted it out before the adult me could stop her:  “Maybe I could ride too.”

Oh god.

I bit my lip.

I cannot believe I just said that.

(Waiting for disgust, laughter, disapproval, polite rejection.)

The rider/trainer responded enthusiastically offering us information about their program, encouraging me to try (he would later become my trainer and literally laugh when I suggested I was too old to learn to ride) and introduced me to the barn manager who also offered no concerns about my age, weight, and lack of experience.

We were welcomed.  Both of us!

That night, I was so excited, scared, happy, scared, barely slept.  And when I did, I dreamed about riding horses that were not kitchen chairs.