Circling Back: How We Became One.

We were hooked and it was written all over us. The first weird looks passed between our parents. We were too young to know anyone else. It didn’t matter if there were horses close by; some of us were in the country but just as many of us were in city apartments. We squealed at horsies! from car windows or stared at pictures in books we were too little to read. We cantered in the house when horses only lived inside our TV.

Eventually we turned into old women with squint-wrinkles around our eyes and some sort of chronic lameness. Through decades of life, we might have changed homes and changed jobs and changed spouses… but feelings about horses never changed. Some would say that we’re past our riding prime, but I’m confident that the residue of those crazy young rides has made us better with horses now. Probably better with our own species as well.

Horses are like a beautiful water-color rinse washed over top of the ink drawing of our lives. It’s the water we swim in while living on dry land. It’s the herd we belong to before and through and beyond our other connections. It isn’t just that we were born this horse-crazy way. Much to the chagrin of those around us, we stay that way. I think we take it with us when we walk on from this world.

What is this hook that horses have in us? It’s the question I’ve asked for as long as I’ve known horses. Unless I was busy actually grooming or riding or training at the moment. Then it was only in the back of my mind.

Of course we love animals but horses are different. We play favorites. It isn’t the same the mess of complex and contradictory feelings we have for people. Horses feel more honest and true.

When philosophers consider the nature of God and the metaphysics of the universe, surely they must consider the central position that horses hold. If they don’t, we know they’ve fallen short of the thing artists have known since the time of cave paintings; it was always about humans and horses.

Is love even the right word? It feels a bit shallow. We began this journey before there was choice or reason; before we knew the word for how we would feel. We rode when there were no horses. It was a prehistoric promise, sealed with horse dander and spit. Or things that would evolve into that eventually.

Maybe back then some DNA got mixed up in the primordial mush and we’re actually a slightly different species. That would explain a lot over the centuries –and eventually at our kitchen tables.

But somewhere in the middle of our lives, life happened. Plans went sideways. Some of us gave up horses for a while and some of us gave up everything but horses. Some of us finally got our first pony fifty years later. All of us stayed true to that prehistoric promise with horses; we always circle back.

Now that I’m older, there are some rides I make myself refuse. There are days that it breaks my heart to cautious, but I have a herd that depends on me. It’s lead mare logic; I wasn’t born knowing it. I do all the barn work my body allows and then remember the kindness that all past-prime horses deserve. I try to practice that same kindness on myself but never quite feel deserving.

Perhaps younger riders look at me like I’m a crazy old nag. I smile and wave, stubborn as a pony, working to show them the patience that my first horse had for me, back when I fell short of my horse’s withers and wisdom.

We’re the sort who never quite settle the struggle to find our balance, drunk with horses and gasping with rude want. We’ve been loud, crying or pouting if we can’t ride. There is nothing polite about passion. Other times, while making the tough choices, we felt as old as sticks and dirt with the bitter maturity of our decisions. Still horses never change for us.

We have a secret that others don’t know. While other women dream of romance book lovers or foreign shores, we dream of a horse who comes to us with an invitation. Personally, I think it’s a white horse –like my Grandfather Horse. He was perfectly ordinary. We all had one just like him. The one that we knew before we were born. The one who never leaves us.

You come for me, behind my eyelids now, but you come. I’m selfish, I fear, to call you to me but I hold no respect for rainbow bridges or fairy tales.

With closed eyes, I climb up the mounting block. That left hip pinches; it’s how I know this is only partly a dream. With one last grounded breath, my leg slides over and I ease onto his back. My shoulders go broad and my spine straightens as it all comes flooding back.

My breath is deep. I was born to sit right here. I feel his ribs expand as he breathes with me and some jagged pieces begin to mend. One more breath and my busy mind settles deep into my heart with a sigh. He’s taught me that oneness means the parts of the rider become united. Horses are that way already.

It doesn’t matter where we go now, sauntering through the water-color wash. The ride stays real long after the horse who shared it has walked on. We are the lucky ones.

Hold tight. They always circle back.

[Dedicated to the friend-readers who are “between” horses and longing, on the seventh anniversary of this Relaxed and Forward blog. Thank you; I’m so grateful to all who share their long ride here.]

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

110 thoughts on “Circling Back: How We Became One.

  1. diamondtsue

    At the “some rides I make myself refuse” questioning age of 70 you remind me that we truly are the lucky ones and that the ride never leaves our hearts. Thank you for the nudge … beautiful words and thoughts.

  2. pauilaromanowMSVU1

    This. When Dax is gone, and there is no barn to go to, I will remember in my heart and in my bones how it was and always will be. I find myself dreaming of riding still; the spirit will always be willing, even though the body no longer can. Thanks, Anna, for giving us old women a voice.

      1. Anne

        I am one of those got her first pony when I was 78 years old. I still ride, but this week I found my ride in the pasture with two fractures of his left hind Hock. He is now stall ridden and I am hoping that in due time he Will heal enough to be comfortable. I cannot think about the alternative without crying. He is 17 1/2 hands, a retired thoroughbred with the manners of a gentleman. He is my Hello Handsome and I put my head against his belly and pray that he stays with me a little bit longer.

  3. Lisa32469

    Perfectly written to all of us with that horse spirit….no matter where we are in our journey. I, even at 48, find myself reluctant to just “ride” any horse….and it makes me sad that I have come to that point, but the love and passion is just as strong. Thank you for your words…and I too became teary eyed….

  4. Oh how true! Horses are not a stage we outgrow. Even when life leads us apart for awhile their connection to our heart and mind is always there. Now in my golden years I massage horses and I really feel I am the one who benefits. With care and kindness I smooth out tension in their body, mind and spirit and they smooth out tension in me and open my heart. You are right it is deeper than one usually thinks of as love.

  5. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Anna. It’s as if you were speaking to me, of a certain age and “between” horses, but longing for that connection again. Truly, for us, horses are for life…

  6. Lynell Abbott

    Personally, I think it’s a bay horse – like my Dover. And all of what has been said on this blog!

  7. JKS

    I was thinking of your Grandfather Horse the other day. I think he’s a legend among your readers’ horses- at dusk, after the day’s work and rides are done, they stand with their hay and talk together about their riders. “My human,” one says, “did something amazing today. Instead of getting upset and kicking and pulling they sat quietly and breathed!”

    “No!” the others say. “It’s not possible!”

    “But it is!” the first replies. “I think that some amazing horse must have taught them.” And so they go on, discussing the incredible qualities this horse must have, to produce such a change in their people. And so a legend is born- Grandfather Horse, the one who imparted such crucial knowledge to humans.

    Of course, you and I know that Spirit had a translator. That doesn’t make him any less legendary.

      1. JKS

        My Handsome thanks you. The other night we just stood together in the near-dark in his paddock after a great ride and grooming, and shared breath. He showed me his itchy spots, I obliged. We just existed together for awhile, and he was more than free to go off and do something else….but chose to stay. I’ve learned how to listen (and am still learning), and as a result, I think he deems me a worthy conversationalist.

    1. As a fox hunter I always think the horses get together after the hunt and talk about all the crazy things their riders did that day. And all the times they had to save us from falling off or doing something really foolish. Just like the riders talk about the hunt at breakfast.

  8. eremophila

    Thank you Anna. Four years since the loss of dear Sally and a week since selling all my horse gear I’m very touched by this . Still grieving but so very grateful for the decades of joy and special memories.

  9. Maggie Frazier

    Absolutely perfect – there is no better way to tell about this feeling (have heard it called a craze). Only those who have had this wonderful addiction would understand. Chico gone for 14 years BUT my saddle & bridle still wrapped in a blanket in a trunk (in my living room). Doubt I will use them again – BUT? You never know. Not having them there is not an option.
    Thank you so much Anna – you said it for me & I guess – all of us who read this blog.

  10. Isn’t it the truth? Since before I can even remember, I’ve been enamored with horses and that’s all I ever truly wanted. Maybe there is something a bit different about us genetically. If so, I thank God for including me in this special group of people. For I am truly blessed…

    Your poem has me sitting here with a knowing smile on my lips and tears softly falling down my cheeks, for this is the language that I deeply understand. Beautiful Anna – thank you.

  11. Chaz Seale

    You’ve reached a point where your wisdom relating to your oneness with horses is almost beyond my imagination with any animal. Yet, it’s a feeling that resonates within me. Thanks.

  12. Sharon Bowen

    Never has anyone fully described that feeling that comes on at first knowing as a child that horses were something above and beyond until you did just now. Thank you.

  13. Sheryl Miller Scott

    Exactly!! Loved horses since I was a little girl. Raised in the city, yearned to be in the country so I could have a horse (because why live in the country unless to have a horse?) I was 33 when I had my first riding lesson, 36 when I leased my first horse, 40 when I bought my first horse. I had my wonderful Dusty for 12 awesome years. Sadly, he got sick & I had to put him down at the ripe old age of 28. That was 6 years ago. Horse ownership & riding has hit the pause button. Hopefully only for this season of my life. Who knows, maybe when I’m 60 I’ll buy my 2nd horse. One can hope & dream. Until then, once a cowgirl, forever a cowgirl at heart. ~Sheryl

  14. Tiffany Martha

    As a child dreaming with tin cans on my heals and a rope “leading” my bike. I remember what my dad said to me when I got my first horse at 30. “You don’t really care if you even can ride him do you”. I said “nope that’s just a bonus” I’m so glad that has always stayed with me. It makes the ups and downs of my ability to ride much more tolerable and the acceptance and love of all horses so much more fulfilling!!!
    Your words inspire me beyond measure!!! Thank you for that!

    1. Maggie Frazier

      All that matters is that you have him – enjoy every minute whether you do ride or not. The most comforting sound is listening to them munching down on their hay. Just enjoy him.

  15. Susan

    Your words help me organize and relate to my horsy emotions. Remembering my youthful passion, acting on the need, and keeping those fires burning……is mystical. Thankfully I can keep the love alive! Even in arthritic pain I climb aboard and thank him for his kindness. So blessed.

  16. Mary House

    fantastically true! Mary

    On Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 11:51 PM, Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog wrote:

    > Anna Blake posted: ” We were hooked and it was written all over us. The > first weird looks passed between our parents. We were too young to know > anyone else. It didn’t matter if there were horses close by; some of us > were in the country but just as many of us were in city ” >

  17. Ray Ruiters

    And they get you through on again and off again chemo and surgeries. Carry our rather broken bodies to make us feel whole and light again. Annie did that for me. She has gone on ahead and I can only hope to see her again and share her breath. Thank you for this lovely post
    Sent from my iPhone
    >

  18. Sherry Walter

    Perhaps we are a different species. Having turned 64 a week ago (and still wondering how the hell that happened!), I find the ride itself is like the cherry on top but the meat of it, the cake, the ice cream, is just being able to be around a horse. Yes, I’m much more cautious, I don’t bounce or bend as well any more but I’m also able to ‘see’ more. I am able to be quiet and observe and hopefully learn. I think Eugene Field said it well: OH, a wonderful horse is the Fly-Away Horse–
    Perhaps you have seen him before;
    Perhaps, while you slept, his shadow has swept
    Through the moonlight that floats on the floor.
    For it’s only at night, when the stars twinkle bright,
    That the Fly-Away Horse, with a neigh
    And a pull at his rein and a toss of his mane,
    Is up on his heels and away!
    The moon in the sky,
    As he gallopeth by,
    Cries: “Oh! What a marvelous sight!”
    And the Stars in dismay
    Hide their faces away
    In the lap of old Grandmother Night
    Eugene Field

  19. Yes, you certainly captured that something, the connection. I don’t think it’s even a decision, I think it’s inate, inborn. I have never owned a horse of my own, likely never will, but yet, I could be wrong. They will always command my soul and my heart.

  20. Sue Sue McKibbin

    So beautiful Anna, you captured it with “waiting for an invitation”. I’ve had that a few times (Particularly from Grandfather horse) but current Teacher-horse isn’t so keen to hand one out, so atm “Oh, all right, if you must (sigh)….” is as good as I get, but one day!

    All the past few blogs have been so pertinent – love the inhale to go exercise, energy sucking youngster is getting it (Mr Stoic), Forward Grannie horse loves it too! they all say “Thank You for suggesting that idea to Sue, we will help her get it in the end….!” LOL

  21. Annette

    Anna, I love your writing, I find myself checking my email over my morning coffee after finishing barn chores before heading off to work to care for other people’s animals all day, hoping I will find your latest post… and I eagerly devour it. Like so many others, I have loved horses since I first laid eyes on one – maybe even before… I was 34 before I was blessed to find a man who shared my love for horses and married him and his horses of course! My beautiful Arabians thank-you for your wisdom and the ability to communicate your thoughts so effectively. You have taught me that it is ok to stop, to breathe, to listen… and I no longer ride while schooling with a ‘goal’ in mind. My horses appreciate this slowing down – I only wish I could turn back the clock from 49 to 15 so I could do it all again- but I would be a better human for my horse the second time around. Instead , I will go forward and treasure every second I am blessed to be in their presence.

  22. Kate Schmidt-Hopper

    Found my new horse; just passed vet check. He is an Andalusian/ Selle Francais cross named Silver. Yes, he’s white.

  23. Jean McCormick

    As a child, I galloped around the house, through woods and over stick-jumps that my friends and I built. We WERE horses way before I could have one. I turned one of my dad’s sawhorses into a horse using scraps of wood and a coping saw to shape the head and neck. That was as close to having a horse as I could manage until Derby came into my life when I was in high school. Had to wait decades after Derby to have my own horse again but they never left my head or heart – never will.

    If I could thank you for this blog in person, I doubt I could get past the lump in my throat.
    Thanks, Anna.

  24. YES! There is THE ONE. I have mine with me now. He came to me 6 days after I put Pepper down. I was worn out. I was sad. I wasn’t sure I would do it again. It was a Sunday in February. One of those cold New England days that the wind bites and your nose numbs. There he was. He looked at me as if to say, where have you been? We’ve been together 9 years!

    1. Lovely, a blessing. My One has been with me 17 years and I knew he was the one the first time I saw him and he looked at me as if he too knew. Will never forget that moment – we are growing older together and feel for each other – beyond words.

  25. sofiarikeraj

    Your article is spot on!!! I have been one of the crazy horse girls with my sister and mum and for the last 20 years I have been dropping in and out of horse riding. I stopped 7 years ago because it was no fun riding when you did not have “the” connection with any of the horses. I found out just after I was pregnant so the stop became longer than expected. At Christmas Eve I find by coincidence “the poney” for sale and decide to buy him for my son and it is the best decision I have made in a long time. The poney is like made for my son and I feel so good being back in the stable every day grooming and teaching my son…and the poney turns white in the summer 😉 I hope this poney will stay with us for a very long time.

  26. Oh Anna! You made me cry; again.
    I “knew” my boy before I even met him. I have been thinking a lot of how I came to be his “mom” It is similar to how I felt when I met my husband. LOL I just knew. Deep in my soul.

    I bought my boy on a whim. I had been looking, having had been horseless for several years. I found myself on the CanterPA site. Browsing OTTBs of all things. I saw his pics. Red a small bio. Wrote his contacts name and number down. And went to bed. For two nights I dreamed about the 16h chestnut gelding, that was several states away. After the second night of dreams. I called his contact. And simply told her that he was mine, not to sell him o anyone else. And I rushed to the bank for the $800 asking price. I met him nearly 3 weeks later. He was already in his stall. Eating hay. That was almost 14 years ago. He’s 21 now and he and I have one of the best relationships. He is my horse soulmate.

    Will I be blessed enough to find another horse “soulmate” when he is gone from our physical relationship? I don’t know. It’s a risk now for me. Being disabled, with tremors and weakness getting worse. My bad days starting to out weigh the good. But a life without horses at all? I can’t imagine it. From the first moment I sat on a pony, and heard the sound of his hoof beats at the Westinghouse family day. Til now.

    My husband, daughter and mother in law don’t get “it”. And I have accepted that. However, I am taking my husband and daughter on a guided trail ride this summer. So maybe they will feel some of what I do from just even being around horses.

    Even if I get to the point where I can no longer walk or speak. I will still look into fields for a horse. Or gaze across a golf course and think “What a waste of perfectly good horse land” I will still say “Goodnight horses” as I go by a barn at night. They are part of my soul.

    1. Oh my… what a beautiful and heart-wrenching comment. I wish you and your good horse the best, whatever the future holds. In the days to come, your horse life might change, but I believe that with the wide range of equine programs (including foster) there will always be a horse to say goodnight to, and a dream like mine, to get to ride on a golf course by passing my horse off as my caddy! I hope this summer’s trail ride is a delight for everyone, and I know that you’ll continue to trust horses to circle back. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  27. Kalee graves

    I have been reading you for a short time… talked on phone with you…you have reassured me and thrown me to the dogs, too.. your past, is my past, similar..anyway, your words are deep and often , piss me off…but even though ..I am responsible for it all.. not the horse..as you tell us constantly.. I believe you to be true.. thank you for your caring.

    1. Kalee, I am sorry to “throw you to the dogs”… it isn’t my intention to cause pain. You say we are similar; know that twenty-five years ago I was confused and trying too hard and my horses let me know I was an idiot all the time.

      I won’t apologize for standing up for horses, but I do wish you well on this rocky journey of horse learning. Doing it the right way is always harder. Thank you for your honest comment; I hope you and your horse have a great summer.

  28. Julie Wallace

    Oh Anna. I wish there could be a physical gathering of all your blog followers. We’d need a thousand tissues to wipe our tears and a great big roaring campfire to contain the laughter.
    I’ve just bought my first horse at age 57 after dipping my toe in with donkeys first. I’m so fortunate to have your words to guide me on this amazing journey, that I feel I’ve been on my entire life. But just now coming to fruition. Thank you.

    1. Julie, it’s been a while. So good to hear from you and happy to hear you have your horse. AND can I say how much I’d love a Relaxed and Forward bonfire… that sounds so fun! And if this horse is okay with your donkeys, he’s okay with me! Good luck, Julie.

  29. Tina Spano

    Oh my, you make me cry tears of happiness all the time. I love your writings. No matter how fast I go through my emails hitting delete as fast as they open I always make time for you. You touch my heart. I just put down my “Spirit”. 30 years old. He had a stroke two years prior and lost control of one hind leg but I held him up as long as it was possible to keep him comfortable. When I met him he belonged to a young boy who named him “Spock”. He was actually responsible for bringing that young boy out of the deep depression he was in. The boy returned to school and went away to college, which is when I met Spock. I was going through menopause and had been away from horses for 20 years. Spock rejuvenated my soul and helped me find my way. Hence the name change to Spirit. He was a red roan Appaloosa. A very sturdy man, never sick a day in his life. On my bad days I would sit with him in his stall and listen to him breath and feel better. I now have my own barn and ride as often as these old bones will allow. And like you have said, just sitting in that saddle is a cure for everything and anything that ails me. God bless these beautiful creatures that give us so much. I could go on and on. I just want you to know that I really enjoy your writing. Tina Spano, Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. 67 years young

    1. Blessings to your Spirit. It’s the first spring in 30 that I’m without mine… and I’ll share your mourning with you, if you’ll share mine with me. Horses are just the very finest creation! Thank you, Tina.

  30. Lyn Chambers

    Oh my. THIS.IS.IT. This is what I have tried to explain to many people over the years. My ‘addiction’, my passion. It’s certainly not a hobby for me. A hobby is something you do because you like it………and you can afford it. A passion you do whether you can afford it or not and you do it because without it you simply cannot breath.
    I too rode on brick walls with pieces of string for stirrups and reins and I drew horses EVERY day at lunch during school.
    I have owned several horses and in their own way each of them was/is my soul horse. Pharaoh was really my equine twin, but I would hate for Dooley to ever hear me say that!
    Thank you for putting it into words. You captured it perfectly! And as always, I have tears rolling down my cheeks.

  31. Betty Parker

    Thank you Anna. I’m new to your blog. This one struck so close to home; don’t mind the tear drops. Betty.

  32. Susie

    I just saw this post at the bottom of the one I had opened to make a comment this morning. Caught my eye so I opened it.
    How did I miss this one? I read them all, so how did that happen,? Then I read the date. It was the day after I came off my young horse breaking my clavicle and 4 ribs. Not my first tumble, not my first broken bone, but the first time for it to seem catastrophic. So yes, this one slipped past me. Today is a better day for me to read and process this post. Beautiful of course, moving of course, but for me, it is reassuring. A feeling settled deep in me letting me know that no matter what lies ahead, horses will continue to breathe with me.
    My first horse came when I was 45. Fifteen years ago. He’s now 20 and has a hind suspensory ligament injury. He’s my soulmate on stall rest with hand walking. I adore my young horse. We have bonded through ground work over the past year and a half. He’s been under saddle 5 months now but I haven’t been his primary rider. That would be the 21 year old. For good reason. Although, I have ridden him over a dozen times. Approximately 3 weeks ago, I had just lunged him then mounted, when not 2 minutes into the ride, he got a spook from behind us, did a scoot, spin and buck so suddenly I was in the dirt before I knew it was happening. That was a first for me. My coach says he stood right there when I came off. Didn’t move, was very aware I was not okay and was very worried. It was a first for him as well. So of course the past weeks have been filled with pain and loss of confidence. Not about riding, just about being able to physically rehabilitate. And yes I am cautious about what rides I’m willing to risk. I have horses depending on me. But I didn’t see that one coming, so now what? I don’t know. All I do know is I’ll always have horses.

  33. Maybe it’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway. You’ll know more. You’ll be more aware. You’ll continue to work with your coach. And it wouldn’t hurt to redefine slow. There is no way that any horse is bombproof, but I know about a million times more than I did when I was 15 years in… Give yourself time to heal and keep breathing. You’ll always have horses.

    🙂 Take care Susie. I’m pulling for you.

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