Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Girls and Horses

Today I'm welcoming Jenny Anderson to Terry's Place. Jenny grew up bouncing between city and farm, hating cities yet spending her whole adult life in them. She's been a wife, mother, geologist, mineral museum curator, soda jerk, materials analyst, antique jewelry dealer, and student. Her master's thesis turned into her first published book.

Little girls love horses. Well, most little girls love horses. Why? Let's not even go there. Freud weighed in on this subject...enough said. I don't care if there's some deep sexual meaning to the love of horses, don't care if it's mastery of a big, powerful creature, don't care if it's power or speed or learning responsibility or an arena where girls can outdo boys. I just love horses and always have.

When I sat on a horse for the first time, at the age of three, I'd never been so high off the ground. Doc was a huge old plow horse, about forty hands high if my memory is correct. Being led around the barn yard on this fiery steed–magic. The blurry little black and white photo of the event has long since been lost but I'll never forget the moment.

For years after that, in my imagination I rode the range on cowponies attuned to my every need and desire, and in reality plodded around the fields and farm roads on bored plow horses. Note: plow horses are not receptive to learning to jump fences.

Keep Reading...

I read every book on horses that ever made it into print. Margaret Cabell Self, Lavinia Davis, and Walter Farley, Marguerite Henry's ponies of Chincoteague and Holling's Book of Cowboys fed my dreams.

I dreamed of my own horse. I lusted after my own horse. Eventually my parents gave in and supplied—not a horse, but riding lessons. Cool! I should have been devastated that the instructor did not feel I was the most talented rider ever to grace his class. It didn’t matter. I was riding!

Eventually we left the constraints of Chicago and moved WEST. New Mexico! Land not covered with houses! Mesas! Sagebrush! I still didn't get a horse, but I did get to ride. Plow horses were replaced by rental horses, borrowed horses, and yes, even a stuffed horse [just once, honest].

And then it happened. I was sixteen. I was employable. I got a job and they paid me real money. Real money that went into a savings account until there was enough to....BUY A HORSE!

I did it. I answered ads. I looked at teeth and pretended I knew what I saw. I test drove broken-down bays and aged chestnuts and a rough-gaited paint. Finally there was Lucky. It was love at first sight. For me. Ill-tempered, palomino, and in no way returning my adoration, Lucky soaked up my time and my allowance and I loved him. He reciprocated by not throwing me more than once a week. Mostly.

Lucky had a Mexican brand, so I decided he'd been a cowpony in his younger days. To live up to him, I would learn to rope. I bought a rope. I practiced. I roped the patio chairs. I roped the dog. I roped my mother. [Once.] Finally I was ready.

I saddled Lucky and headed for a field with a long, straight line of fence. Lucky sighed and loped along. I shook out a loop. I twirled. I aimed. I fired. And watched with satisfaction as the loop settled over the wily fence post.

True to his training, Lucky slammed on the brakes. I didn't. When the stars cleared, I looked up at my dear, devoted horse and my dream had come true. After years of yearning for magical, two-minds-in-tune communication, I knew exactly what he was thinking: disgust. Absolute, utter disgust.

Oh well. One must accept reality. My reality today is borrowed horses and writing about horses. . This is The General, whose owner is amused by the Jen & Gen thing and is always willing to lend her when I need a horse fix.

All those years of loving horses and reading and dreaming about them have proved to be far more useful than my puzzled parents could ever have imagined.

Only one horse in Loving Luke stands out as a character, but he sprang from those golden days with Lucky.

I guess some girls never grow up. I still love horses.

Jenny's website is www.jennysfiction.com, and people can email her at jenny@jennysfiction.com. She loves to correspond with readers! Her book, Loving Luke, is available from The Wild Rose Press.

18 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I grew up with some real horse fans when I was a little girl. I'd go watch my friends ride, do dressage, etc....we always had a great time! It's quite a connection between girls and horses. :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Mason Canyon said...

I've had a love of horses since I can remember. My first horse (Canyon Son) was a beautiful Quarter Horse. I always said if I could have ordered a horse to be made that would have suited me, it would have been Canyon. We only got to be together for a short while (17 years) but I loved every minute of it. I haven't ridden very much since he died even though we have five other horses. Horses, like cats and dogs, gets in your system.

Terry Odell said...

Just stopping in for a moment before shutting down and hitting the road - for the last leg of the trip. Thanks to Jenny for taking charge today, and to all of you who have been faithful commenters while I've been traveling. It keeps that connection while I'm basically in limbo.

Carol Kilgore said...

Your story about General made me smile. I don't know a lot about horses, but I know they have expressive eyes. I can totally see his look.

Jenny Andersen said...

Elizabeth, that's a lovely way to grow up. My own riding was always more survival than dressage, but I've always wanted to learn. I've been re-reading some old Joan Wolf books--she's such a horsewoman, and writes such wonderful descriptions of the riding.

Jenny Andersen said...

I hear you, Mason. I've never owned another horse since Lucky. Partly due to circumstance, but ... well, you know.

Jenny Andersen said...

The General is a wonderful horse, Carol. She's ancient now, and retired, but was originally purchased for the owner's daughter for dressage. She's a grand old girl!

Maryann Miller said...

Wonderful story. Made me smile at times and other times was wistful for all the horses in my life and all the memories of rides and falls and rides and falls. I am so lucky to have yet another who nickers at me when I go outside with my morning coffee.

Terry said...

Love this story and your style. Thanks for sharing it. And roping your mother [once]:)

I had friends who had horses. I rode once in a while but we rode English. I may have liked Western saddle better.

A forty-hand horse at three. You were brave to get up on that thing.

Jenny Andersen said...

I'm envious, Maryann. I have to drive to visit Gen. Someday....? And yes, many, many, MANY memories of falls!

Jenny Andersen said...

Glad you liked it, Terry. My mother didn't, so much. Can you say 'grounded'?

I didn't really discover English riding until the 80s, when I was fortunate enough to go back to school and take riding instead of a PE class. Loved it!

Terry said...

I suspected, "grounded":)

I forgot to say, "other Terry," so as not to confuse people.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've always loved horses too - don't care what Freud thought :)

Loved your story - Lucky sounds great!

Jenny Andersen said...

Thanks, Jemi. Freud can go pound sand...Lucky was a wonderful companion!

Anonymous said...

What a fun story, with a great deal of "ground" truth. You make the point well that the nearly universal (for girls) dream of having a horse is quite different from the reality (feeding and mucking twice a day, staying up all night with a very large, sick animal). The image of your roping your mother is priceless.

JoAnnAinsworth said...

I didn't ride a horse until I was 55 and then I fell in love with them. Had my own Peruvian Paso for a half dozen years until he died of internal bleeding from a ruptured blood vessel. My bones are too brittle to ride thse days.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Jenny

What a great post! I've loved horses ever since I was just tall enough to pat one on the fetlock!My story mirrors yours to a point. I'm a country girl and grew up in the wild Welsh Mountains. Had riding lessons, worked at the local riding school and having saved up for five years, bought my first horse, Flikka, who died about fifteen years ago, aged 35. I now have a sweet black Welsh Cob gelding, Harri, and a Paint mare called T'pau, whose character seems very much like your 'Lucky'. I learnt to ride Western but I'm so glad I converted to Western some years ago, it's such a lovely gentle way of going. Like you I have to travel to my horses too, but I wouldn't be without them for anything!

Teaching Children Horse Riding said...

Yes dear I am agree with that girls are anxious to learn horse riding........