Meet Oliver, the tall, dark, and duskily handsome horse of
my three-year-old dreams. For me, it was love at first ride. Don't let my
grumpy expression fool you. That frown was all about Dad's refusal to hand over
the reins and let me gallop. Even worse, after our plod around the farmer's meadow
was over, I was expected to give Oliver back! Copious tears were shed. As my
parents always told it, I spent the rest of our brief vacation begging for
another ride, and the next eighteen years begging for a horse of my own. Dad's reply
was always the same: "When we live on a farm, you can have a horse." (Years
later, after I'd married and actually did live on a farm, I reminded Dad of his
promise. "We still don't live on a farm," he said. "Guess the
horse is up to you." Well played, Dad. Well played.)
Fast forward a few years from Oliver's sunny meadow in
cottage country to Williamson Road School in Toronto. It was there I met Kate, a
girl who shared my passion for horses. For a time, Kate lived across the street
from the old Woodbine\Greenwood Race Track.
|Old Woodbine/Greenwood Racetrack, Toronto (Public Domain image)*|
We could see the home stretch from her
second floor sunroom window and spent many happy hours squinting through
binoculars, imagining ourselves in silks, winning races on the backs of sleek
thoroughbreds with names like Victoria
Park and Blue Light. In the real
world, we delighted in occasional trail rides on a sedate pair of bays named Smokey and Chip. Life was good… until a severe allergic reaction barred me
from saddle and stable forever. [Insert teen angst here.] Oh, the cruel
injustice of it all!
Kate and I amassed impressive china horse collections,
naming and creating a colourful back story for each one. Mine were displayed on
the mantel above the fireplace in our living room – a generous concession on my
mother's part (although, at the time, I couldn't imagine a more perfect accent
for her tasteful decor). Mom packed up the horses for me when I married but I
didn't take them – no room for a childhood collection in my new, grownup life,
I guess. Eventually, she donated the herd to a church rummage sale. I like to
imagine they found a home with another young girl who loved them.
Kate wasn't so willing to give up her treasures. When I phoned
a few weeks ago to ask if she still had any of her horses, she knew exactly
where to find them: in a box, under the bed. Now, why didn't I think of that?
We pulled them all out to take these pictures and play with them one more time.
Proving what I should have known all those years ago – there's no such thing as
I'm a grandmother now and it seems my beautiful granddaughter
has inherited my love for horses. (Happily, she didn't inherit my allergies!) She loved every minute of riding camp this
summer and is now taking weekly lessons at a local stable. What a joy it is to
see her bond with the horses and watch her confidence grow. For me, it's a
dream come true in the best possible way.
|My grandaughter walking with Jenna|
Afterword: Retirement has inspired me to start a new
collection of horses. This time, thanks to Pinterest, no shelf space required! Yes,
I'm still Horse Crazy after all these years.
Labels: Cheryl Cooke Harrington, country life, Dad, family story, farm, friends, history, horses, humor, Kate, memories, writing