For whatever reason, I can’t sleep tonight. My mind is wandering back to the days when I ate, slept, & breathed horses. Days that I truly miss. Sometimes when I feel this way I find that taking to writing helps to calm my thoughts; as the words form in my brain and flow to my fingertips, the rhythm soothes me and brings me back down. I’m flipping through my memories like a rolodex and tonight I paused to really reminisce about this lovely grey mare and this beautiful farm I once used to spend a lot of time at. Once in a while I feel a catch in my throat as the memories come flooding back.
Like most young girls, I was horse crazy. Lucky for me, my Grandfather had always been a horseman and through him I was able to start riding and my love of these beautiful animals quickly grew. In my late teen years, an opportunity to ride at a farm filled with beautiful thoroughbreds and warmbloods literally fell into my lap. I can’t tell you how excited I was… I mean, this is the girl who had read EVERY book of the Thoroughbred series… I wanted a thoroughbred badly, but was never able to have one of my own. I loved my own two horses and thoroughly enjoy caring for them, riding them, and showing them but I was hungry for more. I wanted to jump. My childhood dream was to become an olympic rider, and to be honest I didn’t see that happening riding a stock horse (or Arabian, the two horses I owned). With my 4-H career over I quickly jumped at the invitation to come ride at a barn nestled in the beautiful valley where I grew up.
While I got to ride a few of their horses and even helped start a 3 yr old, my “project” horse whom I rode nearly everyday was “Hidden Image.” She was bred by the owners of the farm; her dam lived on site until she passed away and her sire was “Southern Dancer” whose bloodlines are of the famous Canadian racehorse “Northern Dancer,” the 1964 winner of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and 3rd in the Belmont. She was a big mare with good bone and had a rocking-horse canter. We tooled all over that property.
I can’t remember the exact year I started riding there but these first set of photographs were taken in the fall of 2004, so I would have been a senior in high school. I didn’t play a fall sport so everyday after school I would take the bus to the farm. First I would stop inside, visit with the owners and have a snack, then head out to go tack up. But it wasn’t just the riding that provided me with so many great memories, it was also the relationship and company of my new friends. They were so kind and giving to share their wealth of knowledge with me, I don’t think I will ever forget about my time spent there.
I apologize for these photographs as they are fuzzy and pixelated. These photos of us working out on the flat are video stills taken with my cell phone, so the quality is poor but I don’t have a lot of photos of us. My Mom was always my “picture-taker” and she was only able to make it down to the farm a couple times – she was usually still working when I went.
I was able to ride with them for a solid 6-7 years, but life took over. After getting a full-time job, getting married, and eventually becoming a mother my time became less and less and I was unable to go much more, except an occasional pass-by just to peek my head in to say hello. The last time I stopped (a few years ago) I learned that Image had passed on to greener pastures. That day and this day I felt a pang of regret as I allowed the sadness to envelope me. Regret that I didn’t ride as often as I wanted to those last few years… regret that I didn’t get to say goodbye… regret that I haven’t stayed in touch…
… But I need to remember all those good years I had there. And I should look forward with hope instead of backwards with regret. I don’t know, but perhaps a visit might need to happen in the near future. One thing I do know, is that I’ll always remember this wonderful mare, the other horses, and my time spent there with these exceptional people. It truly was a wonderful experience and a great time of my life.