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Death, respect, and horses

My hometown has a local paper. It is full of the news of the people who live there, It is a good little paper, it tells what to plant, who needs help, when the high tide will come, or the snow. It tells about church bake sales, and new babies, all of that.

It is insular in the truest sense, I come from an island.

I read it online now, and rarely. I tell myself that the doings of that place are not relevant to me now. I will never live there, my life is bigger than that now. The life that my parents supposed that I would have is one that will not happen.

But I do read it sometimes, for the names. The names make me yearn. Names of people I remember, names of roads that were mine to roam when I was 8, or 12; family names that have braided together over hundreds of years.

I always check the police blotter, (very dull,) and the obits. I am 50 now, so it seems to me that the people who were the grown-ups, (of indeterminate age,) when I was a kid, are dying off at great speed. I have lost a number of my teachers by now, I suppose the classmates will begin to go next.

This week led me to an obit I had missed, from winter time. The intimidating woman who taught horseback riding has died. I gave up on riding quite early. I liked horses, the soft noses, the mobile lips, the smell of them, the way their skin was warm when you slid your hand under the waterfall of the mane. I loved the way you could lean against them and they would take your weight, and bring their great silly face around toward you to see what you were thinking. I loved all that.

And once I had the boots and the hat, and the lessons. But this woman scared me so that I had to give it up. She had taught hundereds of little girls, (mostly girls,) to trot and canter and jump, to change leads, and to push their heels down and keep their little backs straight. But my horse never seemed to listen. My horse rasped the leather through my fingers and cropped grass. My horse held his breath when i put the saddle on, so it was always too loose later. I just never got it. I was, as she said, hopeless. Whenever she spoke to me I felt my throught go dry and my eyes fill with tears.  She said that the horse did not respect me. I had no idea how to get a horse to respect me. Soon enough my friends were doing jumps, I was still plodding in a circle in the baby ring.

Finally my parents pulled me out of the lessons. It was a very public failure in my little town. At 8 I had humiliated my mother becuase I could not get a horse to do what I said. It was the first of a number of such failures, and my mother never let me forget.

But you know, now that I am so much older myself, I think the failure may not have been all mine. Anyway,the riding instructer is dead. The obit said that she was active in the church and had been a fixture of the town. I know that there are hundreds of women who learned riding from her. They learned confidence and freedom and speed and power. Those were true things, and for them she was a good teacher of those things. I learned that you can fail publicly and have it inside you for the next 40 years.

I do still like horses though.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2015 09:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing.

Childhood really is a formative time and experiences during that period can leave a long-lasting mark. I'm at the age now where I can expect more of my parents' generation dying. I don't look forward to attending more funerals (despite knowing that it's a fact of life that death follows).
Sep. 8th, 2015 09:29 am (UTC)
What a horrible thing to do to a child. I really feel for you.
Sep. 8th, 2015 04:59 pm (UTC)
That's an awful, awful thing to do to a child. Especially knowing that all it would have taken was a little understanding and encouragement, and the right pony, and the outcome would have been so different.

There are still unfortunately a few riding instructors here who do that military-shouting nonsense, but on the whole the standard of instruction has improved immensely over the last twenty years - there's far more understanding of how to teach individuals...

Sep. 13th, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC)
I read this while I was working down in Manchester last week and it really struck a chord. We have a similarly insular local paper of course. It's called the Gazette and it's printed every Thursday. Ever since I was a kid I can remember people flicking through the paper, tutting, and saying "there's no news this week". My sister still does the same thing. Some things never change on islands.

I have no experience of horses, and I certainly wouldn't know how to make one respect me. That seems a little presumptuous doesn't it? Surely if the horse is good enough to carry you, they are the ones that deserves respect?

My childhood failure was piano lessons. My mother was determined we should learn piano because she had never had an opportunity to learn an instrument and my aunt was a good piano teacher. I wasn't that bad, but I wasn't that good either and I found practising to be a rather bleak experience. My mother had crystal vases on top of the piano that resonated when I played; it used to drive me mad, I would sit there practising my scales having graphic fantasies about smashing the crystal vases. I did learn to play one Bach piece nicely but that is full extent of my musical talents. I would still like to smash a crystal vase sometime. Just one would do :}
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )