After reading The Trouble with Being a Horse, I invited author Emily Edwards to stop by the virtual offices to tell us about a special horse in her life. It’s fitting that she chose to tell us about a lesson horse. Anyone who starts taking riding lessons with any amount of seriousness quickly learns to appreciate all that these older masters have to teach us. They are infinitely patient, wise, and in their own way, so very protective of their far less experienced riders.
“The Appaloosa” by Emily Edwards
When I was growing up in Nova Scotia in the 1980s there was only one riding school in my area, horses being somewhat of a luxury in my less than affluent town. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this stable—and especially the woman who ran it—were streets ahead of almost any riding school I’ve since seen. I was, from the very beginning, taught how to groom a horse thoroughly, treat a horse properly, and ride with sensitivity. Never having a horse of my own, I did the rounds on various lesson ponies and horses, always learning something new from each, but inevitably having my favourites.
In my early teen years I had been riding a grey gelding who was quite a handful—full of character but perhaps a little too much enthusiasm. I thought I loved him better than any of the other horses I had ridden and was understandably upset when he sold. I then began to ride the only suitable horse in the barn, a 16.1hh Appaloosa gelding who was getting on in years, who I’d been a little afraid of as a child because of his relative size and the ugly faces he’d make when I tried to squeeze into his straight stall to feed him (he hated box stalls). I was resentful at first for having to ride this gelding, a horse I thought far inferior to my beloved grey. It took me a teenage-length of time to realize how smart and sensible this horse was, that I didn’t have to constantly fight him to slow down and behave, that we could actually get on with improving my riding and making real progress. I remember very well when we did our first flying change. I remember even more clearly when we won first place in an equitation class that had twenty horses and riders. But most of all, I remember the day that I came into the barn, after being away for almost two years, and he saw me—and remembered me. I was surprised, but then knew I shouldn’t be, because even though he was a lesson horse and had many riders, we seemed to have formed a bond that not everyone experiences. When I rode him that day, it was as though no time at all had passed; we simply picked up where we’d left off and were back in harmony almost instantly.
That was the last time I rode the Appaloosa before he died and although I’ve ridden dozens of horses since, I’m always comparing them to him. I don’t think anyone would be taken aback if my first horse is a large Appaloosa with hardly any tail who makes silly faces but is so smart and level-headed he seems much more than a horse. I learn a lot from every horse I ride but what can’t be learned—that feeling, that bond—is the connection I know I’ll always be trying to emulate.
Emily Edwards is from the small town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and has a PhD from Trinity College Dublin from the Centre for Gender & Women’s Studies. She has wide-ranging writing experience and currently works as a Research Associate. The Trouble with Being a Horse is Emily’s first work of fiction, and is published by Single Stride Publishing. She has been an avid equestrienne for over twenty years, participating in Pony Club and the Trinity College Dublin Equestrian Team.
Thanks, Emily, for dropping by to chat!
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