Four years ago, I met this big spotted horse named Chief. I would later learn that he could take pretty much anyone and make them into a rider. He had thick, thick fur with a mohawk mane and a dappled rump. I took my first adult riding lesson in hunt seat (think fox hunting without foxes and jumps in an arena instead of hedges and fences) on a cold as hell day. I was pretty sure I could do it. I grew up riding and had taken riding lessons in my adolescence and middle school years. I was practically born on a horse, as my Mom kept her horse Golden Nugget until she got pregnant with my sister.
I was sure this would be easy and fun.
It’s an enormously frustrating thing to know your thighs, not your calves, need to push you up and down in the seat, and your body will NOT comply. Not to mention tight achilles, tight hips, weak calves, and at this point I was doing hard yoga at least 4 days a week.
But god was it fun, and I missed my Mom less when I was in the sometimes quiet, sometimes chaotic student barn at Baskin Farms in Wildwood, Missouri, which I have to recommend to any adult who wants to learn how to ride (or re-learn as it were).
Fast forward two years, and I had leased a couple of horses, a quiet mare and a handsome gelding who is still my prince charming. But then I bought Beau, or Mr. Bojangles, as we call him.
Beau is my baby and I missing him today, as I sit in a hotel in Louisville waiting for the Kentucky Derby. I haven’t decided if I am going this afternoon to the race. I don’t have a ticket, and I’m tired after yesterday at Churchill Downs for the Oaks, the great international filly turf and track race.
It started with a horse, and here I am, in Louisville, for horse races that my Mother loved. I don’t know how I ever managed not to be here. Ever managed without a horse. I owe so much of everything to do with that ride to my friend Tabs, so much of this blog, so much of my push to find a big life. So naturally, I am thrilled I got to spend yesterday with her at Churchill Downs. And thrilled that she has been with me for every part of the life that began with a horse, with her own gray horse and her sense of adventure and hilarity.
Sharing these things that my Mom loved so much has been a massive part of my grieving process. And yesterday, at Churchill Downs, I’m sure my Mom was with me in spirit.
But I know my friend Tabs was in person, and that means everything in the world. Sometimes even the worst things are possible if you have a horse and a friend.
What better place to celebrate a 13 year friendship than a race for girls?