Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How do we get the "horse bug"?

I just watched a commercial on TV, something about a race car driver, they said something about nobody knew how he got hooked on racing but it started young.  Then they showed a baby in a crib looking at a mobile of race cars over his head while he kicks at a pedal to make the mobile spin faster and faster.  Message being, of course, this driver was born wanting to race.

So how do die-hard horses lovers get the bug?  Are they born with it?  Is it hereditary?  Can it be developed in later life?

I don't know the answers to those questions.  I know I got it young.  My earliest childhood memories were about horses.  The only toys I wanted as a child were horses -- stick horses, model horses, pictures of horses, coloring books with horses.  I wanted to be a cowboy.  I learned all about being a cowboy from all those Saturday morning westerns, especially the Roy Rogers show, which is currently showing on RFDTV three times a week.  He was my hero, and all I ever wanted was to be like him, riding a beautiful horse and shooting at the bad guys.  I remember Santa Claus coming to the home of a friend around the corner.  How old could I have been?  Six?  Seven?  Younger?  "And what would you like for Christmas?" he asked with the trademark "ho ho ho."  "A gun and holster," I replied, and lo and behold he pulled out a wrapped gift from his sack that turned out to contain a gun and holster set.  (Dang, why didn't I say, "A pony"?  I had my chance and missed it.)

My father had ridden horses a few times.  My mother had gone to a dude ranch when she was 18 and been bucked off and had a permanent fear of them.  My sisters enjoyed riding on our annual trips to the riding stable at Christmas, but neither of them were asking Santa for a horse, or praying to God for one in church on Sunday, or scheming to find a way to afford one so they could try to talk our parents into getting one.

No, I didn't inherit this bug.  I don't know if I caught it from those Saturday morning westerns, or if I was just born with it.  But I've got it, and I've got it bad. And that's good.

I was thinking about that today as Tessa and I rode through the woods on a cold and breezy day, trying to squeeze in one more ride before the rain moved in, possibly later today.  Tessa grew up with horses; her family raised them.  Today she mentioned that they had once imported two horses from their native Switzerland.  She may have inherited the bug from her horsey parents.  Tessa is half my age and is determined to ride as much as she can -- just like I was at her age, and still am to large extent.  I might be sitting there thinking, "I really don't feel like riding today," but all it takes is a phone call or text message from her asking "Wanna ride?" and I'm ready to saddle up.  I think in the past year and a half that I've been riding with her there have been maybe once or twice when I had to turn her down, and that was because of work.

Yes, I've got the bug and I've got it bad.  I've known a couple people who didn't get into horses until late in life and it's sad, because being able to enjoy horses when you're young and fearless and don't need to hold back for concern about how you will support yourself, your family, or even take care of your animals if you got hurt creates such powerful memories that the placid trail rides of middle age and beyond can never compare.  I have been lucky and never been seriously hurt, but I know that my high-speed barrel racing days of my young adult life are over.  They are cherished memories -- I'll never forget the thrill of galloping full speed on Sandy, or the challenge of riding horses that bucked as a matter of routine -- but they are just that -- memories.  I won't barrel race on Dash.  I know my back won't take it and I've had enough mishaps in recent years to know that I don't bounce back from a fall like I did then.  A no-speed, slide off, "oops" kind of fall that I would have dusted off and laughed off thirty years ago today results in painful bruises, a trip to the chiropractor, chugging down Motrin tablets for a week, and the sad realization that I'm no longer young.

I would have horses even if I couldn't ride.  I would live in my truck before I would give up my horses.  They'll get my horses away from me when I'm comatose and no longer able to object.  And if that happens . . . I hope I don't come out of the coma.  Because I can't imagine a life without horses.  I wouldn't want to wake up if I knew my horses would be gone.

Other people get other "bugs," probably at the same age I caught mine, and the same age that TV commercial portrays that race car driver catching his.  For some, it's the fishing bug, and they can't imagine life without being able to go fishing.  For others, hunting, or football, or collecting stamps, or building birdhouses.

For me, it's horses.  They are what has made my life happy and complete.  They are what makes my soul happy.

And they are what are waiting in the yard, ready to greet me with a nicker and come over to the fence for petting, when I go out to feed them about an hour from now.

May they never find a cure for this "bug."  I don't want to recover from it.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

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