Upon returning home for Christmas break in my second year of college, I learned that my father had just bought a ranch. And, as if that wasn’t enough exciting news, also while I was home for Christmas that year, we went together to look at and purchase a horse that would be my horse to ride whenever I was home.
Patches was a white appaloosa mare who had been spoiled as a baby by owners who expressed affection by scratching her butt. So as a way of greeting, she always backed up toward you — and didn’t stop until you scratched with enthusiasm. What I’m sure was cute on a foal or yearling was a little disconcerting as you see the buttocks of a 1000-pound adult horse about to mow you down. Nevertheless, I loved her instantly and completely. She was beautiful and crazy and fun to ride. So what if she got stuck in reverse occasionally? And laid down when she was ready for you to get off — sometimes in the middle of a stock tank? Those were happy days and I never remember feeling a single thing when riding that horse but pure joy.
We explored, we climbed, we galloped, we wandered along looking at the panoramic beauty of nature around us. It is that joy and freedom and comfort in my own skin — and feeling so at one with nature and this crazy but lovable horse that I remembered and visualized as I wrote. It was my own personal demonstration of the ideal state we all strive for in our riding – the perfect combination of freedom and contentment that we all hope to find on the back of a horse.
Looking back, I realize now how these ranch memories shaped my writing — and my need to write about these experiences. I wanted to share what I had learned, knew and experienced so others could go out and find those feelings for themselves.
Coming home to learn of a ranch in the family, horses, and the realization of a lifetime of dreams was the ultimate holiday surprise — and a gift that still keeps giving, even today. So Dad, it’s OK that there was never a pony under the Christmas tree, no matter how many times I put it at the top of my list (usually with a star beside it to indicate it was ALL I really wanted.) This holiday surprise more than made up for it.
What’s your favorite holiday horse memory? Let’s celebrate these stories throughout the holiday season me hear from you! Share your story (and photos if you have them!) on my Facebook page, Twitter, or via email to [email protected].