I’ve never been overly fond of horses. I don’t dislike them by any means, I just don’t get that warm and fuzzy feeling a smaller animal evokes.
Ginger had a lot to do with my aversion. Ginger was an unpleasant little redhead, a shetland pony, (okay, not quite a horse), with a mean demeanour owned by my mate Smil in Turramurra. One afternoon I decided to take her for a leisurely ride, talking and cooing to her gently as I mounted her, and I thought we’d bonded pretty well, until she took off like a rocket down the nature strip.
Bouncing up and down and rattling like a Jaffa in a jam jar, I hung on for dear life as Smil ran unhelpfully behind crying with laughter. This firey readhead wanted the blonde off her back, and as there was nothing like a low hanging branch to complete the mission she headed towards a clump of trees. I came tumbling off, winded and stunned, to glimpse the cheesed off little pony execute a perfect 360 and bolt for home.
I returned to the house, naively expecting Ginger to be contrite and offer a comforting nuzzle of apology, but she barely lifted her head. If “whatever” had been part of our 70s vocab that’s what she would have snorted at me.
So it was rather odd to find myself atop a horse just last weekend. We were at the Moore Park Stables and spending an hour riding through Centennial Park. My horse was Howie, and he was the size of a small skyscraper. The teen was mounted next to me, about three stories down, on Star.
Howie, unlike the duplicitous Ginger, made it clear from the very beginning who was in charge. When I proudly showed my daughter how to turn him around to leave the stable, Howie obliged, (I’m sure just to make me look good), before stamping his hoof and turning straight back the other way – the right way – to exit. As we ambled off he made it clear with a bored sort of air that Miss Bossy Boots on his back was now riding an automatic, not a manual, and no interference was necessary.
We crossed the road into Centennial Park and into a marvellous parallel world of activity. Everywhere I looked there were people enjoying the spectacular morning, cyclists, runners, soccer players, families, lovers, dogs and children. Then there was Howie and me, plodding along, me not doing much at all, Howie patiently doing his job.
When he stopped for a snack I pulled his reins to lift his head but Howie just thought that was annoying and pulled them back right out of my hands. Clearly he wasn’t budging until morning tea was over. But as I listened to Howie munch his grass, and from my lofty position watched the happy people all around me, I realised how much of life is missed just through the business of living it.
Granted, I was sitting stationary in the middle of a city park, not galloping through the desert with my hair streaming behind me, but for just one hour I was being forced to take time out and live at Howie’s pace, not mine. It was just Howie and me, me and Howie, doing our thing on a spectacular Sunday morning. And it felt good. It brought to mind Winston Churchill who once said “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle”. He was right.