Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A personal story

I was not a horse kid. In fact, I barely knew what a horse was as a child. I couldn’t even convince my folks to get me a cat. Though I did catch mice from time to time and kept them in a fish tank with a screen over it. Mice can jump out.

As a youngster, I never saw a horse up close, never touched one, never smelled one. Don’t remember seeing a Western, and certainly never went to a horse show. Didn’t know anyone who rode, let anyone who actually owned a horse. The closest I got to a horse was the big gentle giants that pulled the fancy buggies around Central Park. We’d walk by them on the crowded city streets when we’d go down town to look at the Christmas lights, all bundled up and still cold in the damp winter air. I remember being little, holding a big person’s hand so I wouldn’t get lost in the push and crunch of the crowd, and trying to see those horses as they clip clopped past us on the frozen pavement. Peaceful dragons, with smoke billowing from their nostrils. They looked tired, but wise, and deep. I don’t know if that’s the right word for it, but that’s rather how I felt about them. Deep.

I grew up outside of, then inside of New York City. I never really fit in. As a kid, I was quiet and solitary. I’d play in the basement, alone with my Barbies or crayons or ballet. Alone down there, surrounded by cement and the Big Black Boiler which chugged and groaned and then suddenly let out a big clang every once in a while so I could never anticipate it coming and be prepared. Always a little spooky, but still safe and quiet and peaceful, because I was alone.

When I was 16, I remember jogging through a quiet section of the Park on the west side, lost in my own thoughts, unaware of my environment, just focusing on my breath and my rolling, rhythmic feet. Suddenly a beautiful and magical apparition appeared before me: a lovely fit woman clad in proper English attire atop a stunning horse with flowing tail, cantering down the soft trail. She passed me. I stopped. And I watched as she disappeared around the corner and into the trees.

I decided then and there that is what I had to do.

Clairmont Stables, I believe was the name of a real riding stable right there on the Upper West Side, just a couple of blocks from Central Park. By the time I was 17, I earned enough money that I could take lessons about once a month or so. In addition, I saved up enough to buy the right boots and hat and breeches so I wouldn’t look as silly as I felt around all those fancy ladies and the beautiful horses. I tried to be really inconspicuous, hoping to blend in with the wooden walls and sawdust as I had done in the cement of my basement.

I must have taken at least a couple of lessons. Funny, because I can’t remember them, can’t remember a teacher, can’t remember being inside the barn arena for very long, with all those people and horses and noises and smells. I just wanted to take the horse and go out and ride. And they let me.

I don’t know if they still do things like. I wouldn’t! But they did back then, 25 years ago. And it was, well, indescribable. I can’t really find the words to tell you how it felt to be a young woman, in the crisp and cold and early morning calm and soft that can be found in the still sleepy city; so strong and empowered riding her powerful steed across a couple quiet intersections and into the park, and then to run, to run, to run… I suppose most of you know. Most of you already knew. For me it was new. And it was wild and free.

I couldn’t afford to go very often. But I remember when I could, I’d be on the subway so early in the morning, long before the rush hour crowds, dressed in my proper English boots and pants, with my helmet under one arm, holding on to the overhead handle for balance with my other hand. And I would feel so proud. Oh… if they only knew where I was going, what I was doing… they wouldn’t look oddly at this skinny little girl!

Life takes us on our twisted and tangled journeys, and sometimes we have to just go along with whichever direction we find ourselves caught in the current. Other times, we find a goal, perhaps a vision, a direction so strong that we have to do whatever we can to follow that dream. Working and living with horses was that dream for me. It was so strong, so driving, I knew it was right.

I have been lucky at times and struggling more often, but managed to create a life with horses. I live far off in the mountains with my little family of two leggeds, and larger family of four leggeds. It is a wonderful journey every day working and living together, and has been an interesting journey to get here.

I have been lucky at times, finding mentors and opportunities and open doors. Other times, most times, I have worked very hard, staying up late studying and waking extra early in attempt to make the grade. But I have made it work. I have been able to live and work with my horses. I’m not a famous clinician, or big name trainer, or popular riding instructor. I’m just an outfitter. I ride in the mountains for a living. I don’t make much money, but I am so rich inside: I live the life my guests pay to participate in for just a few days, or even a few hours. I feel blessed every time I am out there on top of a mountain on one of these magnificent creatures, and sharing it with my husband, my son, or even with a group of friends or strangers who have hired me to safely guide them.

That twisted and tangled road is still continuing. I’m only half way there, wherever “there” is meant to be. I only know it is with the horse. Our outfitting business is dying. Folks just don’t come to ride in the back country this far away from “civilization” very often any more. My in-laws have been feuding and have divided the ranch. We no longer have the land to graze all my four leggeds. It is time to move on, time to get in the saddle and hit the high trail, to see where it leads. I will follow.

And with my horses, my husband and son and I are going to move on together to build a new life, a new little world. I don’t know where, or when, or what I’ll do. But I know somehow it will be living and working with my horses. I have committed to them. I have committed to this goal. I believe it is right, somehow, yet so frightening too.

I try to be as brave as I was back when I was 17, when I bought my own proper gear and walked into a stable and a world I had never been a part of before. At times I look for the walls to hide along side of, but most of the time, I step up in the saddle and remember I need no walls. I ride, we run, we are free and strong and safe together. Where ever we may ride to. That is where I am meant to be.

Written by Gin Getz, originally posted on the site: Enlightened Horsemanship though Touch