We thunder through the forest, mane and tail whipping like a spurt of black flame in the wind created by our passage. We are flying, hooves barely seeming to touch the ground. Trees whip past, distinct and each leaf separate until they blur together as we pass. I breathe in and the familiar scent of hay and horse sweat fills my nose. I am free and all that matters is that I am here, in this moment and at this time, with Ella. She means the world to me.
Ella is the horse that taught me to ride. Her black coat becomes dappled with light as the sun flickers through holes in the leafy umbrella overhead. I lean forward on her neck as we pass under a low hanging branch. I know that I am safe to do it; Ella does not spook easily. I slow her down and I feel that smooth gait that belongs to a Tennessee Walker. But a pang of regret strikes a vicious blow at my heart as I can also feel the stiffness of her joints. Ella is twenty-four and is overweight, but she is also the safest horse I have ever been on.
My family has used her to help kids and adults alike to become less scared and more confident around horses. But more than that, she changed my life forever. In her own way she taught me patience and how to love life even with all the problems that come with it. We learned together and together we taught each other to respect and trust one another. She came to me not very well behaved and I was not a very good rider. Yet, together, we came up with new way to understand each other. We created a new language that is understood by only the two of us. We have forged a relationship that will never be duplicated by another. Just like human friends we take care of each other whether we mean to or not. And, like friends, we have to fight so that, when it is over, we will be closer than before. She saved my life when she came to me; helped me heal old wounds. And I believe that I am good for her.
I honestly do not know where or who I’d be without her. I do not want to know because this is who I am and this is where I belong: flying with her, me astride her back. I breathe in the flowers and the smell of horses and fresh air as her hooves match the sound of a thunder clap and create a beating drum that causes my heart to race alongside the trees. Alone, we are lost in the world, nothing but an old horse and young girl, but together we are one. Together and only together we are free.
Published December 2011 Issue