Every horse lover has their own story.
My love affair with horses began around age 8 when I witnessed my biological father kicking the living daylights out of his horse, King, before saddling him, so he could tighten the cinch. When King didn't respond to his demands, he would dismount only to kick him again, pop him on the nose or twist his ears because he "wouldn't listen." My heart sank watching this abuse, so every time dad released King back into the field, I would sneak out to meet him with an apple.
Naturally, King wasn't trusting of humans, so I sat quietly in the field until he approached to receive his treat. Eventually, he welcomed my kind touch and apologies for dad's behavior.
I mustered up the courage to start riding King myself when I was 10. I wasn't tall enough or strong enough to throw that heavy roping saddle on his back, so dad had to do it. I was always nervous mounting up, not knowing what to expect from a horse that was just punished for doing absolutely nothing wrong. It took awhile before King would relax, improving with every step he took away from the barn. He listened to many hours of my little girl dreams and problems as we wandered through the pasture until dark.
No one had taught me how to ride so I had to figure out for myself how to survive a few rodeo moments when King instinctively herded cattle in the field. Essentially, I learned how to hang on in a saddle too big with stirrups too long.
I only saw King twice a month when visiting my father but he knew it was me. We had an understanding - he knew I wasn't going to hurt him and I knew he wasn't going to hurt me. That trust created my passion for horses. I love the way they smell, the velvety texture of their noses, and how something so powerful can be so gentle. Every time I saddle up, I am reminded of a brave little girl who taught herself how to put one foot in the stirrup and hang on.
Learning how to hang on continues to serve me well.