I was one of those youngsters who loved horses, were you? Pretty privileged I know. I got obsessed at about 11 or 12, and luckily for me, Mum and Dad decided to assuage their parental divorce guilt by buying me a cheap old fat stubborn Exmoor pony called Christie.
I had to babysit every weekend, and cycle a paper route before school to help pay for the feed and paddock costs; those animals can sure eat a lot of hay.
After a couple of years trying out Pony Club, going hunting, and galloping over farmers’ fields without permission, I progressed to a Palomino called Holly, who was handsome, but with a crap personality. We tried cross country jumping, basic dressage/showing, plus lots of trail rides, and I fell off dramatically twice, getting concussion and then a fractured jaw.
My Dad was not impressed.
Still, Holly had the desired effect of keeping me away from boys… until I got to 17, passed my driving test, and suddenly discovered the freedom of nightclubs and dancing till 3am.
Who wants to get up and deal with a mean horse at 6am before school? Not me any more.
So off Holly went in a float, and I remember the feeling of relief and excitement at my new-found lack of responsibility…
Except I missed the riding.
I missed the clip clop of hooves along country lanes, or the rhythmic thud of them galloping across peaty moors. That delicious scent of horse sweat, with the creak and smell of saddle leather; warm soft breath on my neck as I picked out hooves, or the satisfaction of throwing on a warm rug for a cold evening.
For years, I sought out horses to ride, belonging to a friend, or country neighbour; for an idyllic 3 months I even talked my way into a job caring for and learning to ride 6 Spanish stallions… considering that their basic instinct is to kill each other for territory, it was a miracle none of us stablehands were injured! I was actually a bit relieved when the funding ran out and the job vanished.
Then the pressures of motherhood finally arrived, with a new-found fragility and sense of caution; but fast-forward nearly 2 decades, and look what I did last week.
How happy do I look?
One hour in the saddle brought me so much delight, and completely rejuvenated my horse love. I’ve spent hours since then watching YouTube tutorial videos (none of which we had in the ‘olde days of yore’), and am feeling a little obsessed.
Not to mention stiff.
Like, seriously stiff.
For another 4 days.
[Hello inner thighs, welcome back, I really need you.]
Now guess what I’m doing? Day dreaming about lessons, the possible ‘trial lease’ of a horse, and perhaps even horse ownership again one day…
Am I crazy??
Just as my nest empties, with son ‘18.5’ moving out into the world in his new car, with his 3 part time jobs, and talks of his surf trips round Australia, I consider tying myself down to a four-legged responsibility which basically eats money…
But my teenage self is absolutely delighted, so I’m just following her for now.
What childhood hobby do you miss the most, or have you thought about taking up again?
In gratitude for the magnificence of a horse, G xO