Her kingdom for a horse is daughter’s dream
by Diana Gleasner
I’ll be frank about this. I have never dreamed of galloping off into the sunset, no matter how splendid the scenery in the beer commercials. It’s not that I have anything against the equestrian world. It’s just that I’m a little afraid of horses. They’re generally bigger than I and have, in the past, taken advantage of that fact.
My knowledge of horses was completed in the third grade with the startling realization that they were not all boys (married, I assumed, to cows who were obviously female).
I am keenly aware that a few minutes west of downtown Denver is a whole other world of ranches with neat fences and – surprise – horses. Lots of horses. My daughter, Sue, knows this territory, can talk English vs. western saddles with the best of them. It’s a language unknown to me. At one time we thought she’d get over this strange addiction to the world of equitation, but it has turned out to be a lifetime addiction. So when she and I have a rare day to spend together, we choose up sides.
I see no problem. Wouldn’t anyone choose to spent the day gunkholing the coves of Lake Norman. Or how about sailing with the breezes, a picnic lunch in the cooler. An exhilarating early morning ski on the placid waters of the lake? Surely, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Her choice? A brisk trail ride through the Denver countryside. Here’s where the guilt creeps in. Every birthday, every Christmas – without fail – at the top of the wish list, we could always count on the simple word “horse,” a reminder that her childhood dreams are incomplete. She should have had a mother with a barn. Or a rich father. She didn’t win the parental lottery. She got us.
So to make up for that, we try to take her on the occasional trail ride. On one recent ride the trail boss turned in his saddle to announce: “ We‘re going to canter.” Then he asked if everybody was ready. “No,” I heard myself shout. I, who had come for the scenery, had unwittingly booked passage with the experts.
Sue shot me a look of total mortification.
“I can’t canter, “ I started to explain.
I looked at Sue’s face and quickly reversed my field.
“OK,” I said, disregarding every instinct for survival. “Show me how.”
Sue and the trail boss gave me a few quick instructions. I remember something about the rhythm of a rocking chair and something about hanging on.
I managed the hanging on part as we exceeded the trail speed limit, ducking low branches as we cantered up one side of the hill and down the next. Sue kept turning to see if I was still on board. I was.
Later, as we let some of the horses graze, I watched my once-timid daughter, hair flying in the wind, canter up and down the meadow. I understood all the satisfactions of parenthood compressed into that one memorable scene. Radiating confidence and in complete control of her steed, she was the vision of joy. On the way back to the stables, we cantered again. As I got into the rhythm of it, exhilaration replaced fear.
Later on, I told Sue what a great time I had. She responded thoughtfully.
“At first I was worried about you,” she said. “But, Mom, you did so well. Honest. I was really proud of you.”
I know the feeling.