Kiera takes after her Grannie Annie

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Synchronicity time! Just yesterday I stopped in a neighbor’s house who had advertised “free stuff” taped to her window with the front door open — and came across one of those plastic horses that I used to have as a child. It sent me spinning back.

Then this afternoon, Kiera’s Mom Sue loaded the above photo to her facebook page with the note that she had just dropped Kiera off where she and her friends “can roam free on 300 acres.”

My mouth waters to consider such a prospect. Can you imagine if every little girl in the whole world who longed to ride free on 300 acres got to do so? How many little girls would that be? I’d estimate about half of all little girls everywhere on Earth are horse-crazy, and I’ve often wondered why.

Why does the horse inspire such a passionate response in 50% of young girls, regardless of whether or not they actually manage to get their horse? Is this an indicator of the balance required by nature? Is this passion in young girls directly proportional to patriarchal oppression? If so, then there’s a lot to reckon with, once we are all truly free to follow our own natures, both male and female.

And that day, my friends, is coming.

In my case, I wanted a horse, indeed, was desperate to have my own horse, from first grade on, when my friend Mitzi got one, and I got to ride behind her, bareback. I started to draw horses, paint horses, pretend I was a horse, down on all fours every day after school with whoever was then the youngest brother or sister on my back, trotting and neighing around the living room, or the back yard. Truly, in my imagination, I became the horse. No joke. No pretend. For that little while, I could feel my way into the wild, plunging elan of the horse, its beauty and majesty, that tremendous speed and power inside sensitive flicking ears, snuffling, velvety muzzle and large, soft, slow, brown eyes.

I was determined to get a horse of my own. Of course there were eight of us kids, and nobody, but nobody got something unless everyone else could get one too. That was Dad’s misguided notion of fairness — expurgate individuality; dumb everyone down to the very common denominator. — Reminds me of school. Of course it didn’t work. As adults, we are all distinct individuals. Uproariously so. Stern German Dad finally learned to grudgingly appreciate that fact. But back to my story.

We couldn’t all have a horse. There was no way we were going to get and stable eight horses when we lived in town.

I heard him out, his logic; my fevered rational brain understood his reasoning. But my inner craving just increased, mushroomed to overwhelming intensity.

And, it turned out, lucky for me, nobody else wanted a horse!

“Please, Dad, please get me a horse! Please!” I’d actually interrupt him, badger him, something no one else did, since he was so forbidding and formal, a very busy doctor, rarely home, and when home, demanding peace and quiet.

Finally, I asked a friend’s Dad if he would let me have his cigar boxes when he was finished with them. Because I read about a contest on the side of the box that said that 100 boxes got you an application to enter a contest to get a retired Kentucky thoroughbred! Hard to believe. Maybe it isn’t true, but that’s what I remember. I must have thought that since I wanted the horse so badly, of course I would win!

Anyway, I remember running home joyously with my first box. Dad happened to be home, in his usual position, in a big chair, reading the paper. I ran up, rudely interupted him, and showed him my prize, the small, crucial lever that I would use to lift the whole world. As I was excitedly showing him the cigar box, the contest on the side of it, and my need to save up to get 100 cigar boxes, on and on, he suddenly changed his tune. Perhaps it was because his first daughter just wouldn’t leave him alone? Perhaps his own guidance shifted his perspective? Perhaps his soul met mine in counsel? Whatever the reason, the fact that he changed his mind, I am convinced, saved my life. Saved the life inside me. Brought me to life again.

“Okay,” he said solemnly. “You do the dishes for a whole year, all of them, with no complaint and no reminders, and I’ll get you that horse.”

What? Really?!!?

Yes!

Right then and there I took a piece of newsprint and made a huge grid with 365 slots, and started crossing them off. Day one, day two, day three. Three meals a day for ten people. Oh wait, no, it couldn’t have been ten people since I was only 8 years old, and a few of them weren’t even born yet.

Okay then. Eight people. That’s 24 meals a day for 365 days equals dishes for 8,760 meals. No problem!

One year later, I had my horse. Dad kept his promise, even though he probably thought I would never follow through. I salute him for his integrity.

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Here I am, on top of “Golden Sunlight” for the first time. A little nervous. Goldie was a seemingly docile five-year-old mostly Tennessee Walking Horse mare that had been owned by a Shoshoni Indian boy. She had a great single-footed walk. Did not trot. I felt sorry for my friends who had to trot to keep up. You could mount her from the front and back and both sides. She cost $100. Stabling her cost $10 per month (I think.)

But: whenever we ran, Goldie would take the bit in her mouth and run away, not stopping until exhausted. I loved it. Goldie was me. Four years later, when I sold her to pursue skiing, because my first (and only, when young) boyfriend skiied and Dad said I couldn’t do both, and my hormones had started to rage, the old man who ran the riding club (he’s standing in the background of the photo) who had sold her to me bought her back, used her as a brood mare to raise race horses. He must have seen us out running there, in the fields.

Poor Mom had to drive me out there. Or Mitzi’s mom would. Or I’d ride my bike the three miles. Sometimes just before dawn. I’d time my alarm to slip out of the house in the dark, bike out to the riding club, slip on Goldie bareback, and run free, in ecstasy, through the fields, to greet the rising Sun.

(Much later I learned that I was born at sunrise. Double Sagittarian. Symbol? The horse. Double: because both Sun and Ascendant (rising sign) are in that fiery sign.)

That’s the kind of determination that fires a horse-crazy girl. She will not be denied.

Now Kiera. She too, was fired up by this strange obsession that caught her early on and had her drawing horses.

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A few years ago she even made a horse sculpture from found objects. (Sorry, can’t enlarge it.)

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About seven years ago I told my son Sean, her Dad, that Kiera was like me, that she was going to want a real live horse of her own. He blanched, looked stunned, terrified. No way was Kiera going to get a horse. Stabling costs so much more now, and so do horses. Besides, they too, lived in town.

Instead, Sean and Sue parents worked very creatively with what they could do for Kiera. And that was to get her a job in a stable, only about 20 minutes from their house. There, after school twice a week, for years now, she has been mucking out stalls and grooming horses, in exchange for riding some of them once in a while. And now that she’s almost thirteen, she finally gets to go to summer horse sleep-away camps. I knew about one of them this summer in August, not the other one going on now.

Excited for her.

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1 Response to Kiera takes after her Grannie Annie

  1. marlena says:

    awwww – what a lovely reminiscence and how it relates to your granddaughter! Brought tears to my eyes. and wow, what a lot of dishes and no complaints?! that’s hard core discipline fueled by desire! as always so enjoy your writing!

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