musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

wishes and horses...

Oliver, Dad, and me. 1953
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 too old!

Kate's china horses

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.

M walking with her horse, Jenna
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.   

* Racetrack Image Credit: by James Victor Salmon 1911-1958 - Toronto Public Library. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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At 1:27 pm, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

What a lovely story of a childhood passion that never quite left! It seems your love of animals in general has stood you well through the years, Sam and the sorely missed Jazz just being the most recent in line. Horses stir strong memories for me of my riding days at boarding school in England. I have not been on a horse since. Thanks for sharing this.

At 7:00 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

English boarding school must have been interesting, Susan - I'm guessing there's a story in that memory. (Likely more than one!) So glad you enjoyed my reminiscing. I'm just back from a Prince Edward County getaway with a friend (Kate from the story), where we saw lots of lovely horses. Always a treat. Thanks for reading!


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