Friday, October 23, 2015

Coming down with something ——— maybe horse fever

I have done more this month of October than I've done in years.  The results.....happiness, better health, appreciation for so many things.  They say that once you learn to ride a bike you never forget.

Well, in the case of horses, that is true many times over.  This month I've been on an afternoon trail ride, spent five days with friends and horses at Chickasaw State Park in Tennessee, and just returned from a week-long trip to horse country in Kentucky.  My soul is smiling.

I wondered how I'd do riding when I've taken a break—a 14-year-long one.  What if I was too sore to get up in the morning, what if the horse and I didn't get along, what if I got sick while I was there?  Nervous Nancy was asking all those questions. I told her to take a hike.  Nothing but good things happened at Chickasaw.

After riding four hours, napping a little, sharing a meal with horsey friends, I was recharged for the next day.  My husband, children and friends, said, "I don't know what happened up there, but you look happier than you have in ages."  I was.

I added a little to the callus on my left hand where the reins overlap my index finger.  It never went away, just softened.  I instinctively used muscles that hadn't been called into action in 14 years.  When you ride in deep woods, all your senses are engaged.  You smell the piney woods, wet with a morning rain.  And then there's that intoxicating smell of horse.  If you aren't a horse person, you don't understand.

Camaraderie with like-minded, generous people can't be beat.  They just get it.

The beauty of the Kentucky countryside was breathtaking.  My friend and I just drove the narrow, curvy roads looking as far as the eye can see at miles of black-washed wood fences with elegant thoroughbred horses grazing on the still-green grass. Leaves there were turning faster than ours are here in North Mississippi. Every day we were in Kentucky we were blessed with beautiful weather and perfect photographer's cloudless blue skies.

We got to watch my friend's Rough Collie dog work a small herd of Cheviot sheep on the sloping fields of her herding trainer.  Even the little Smooth Collie boy took his turn and seemed to love it.  Collies are herders.

And then we were off to Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY, the working farm that was home to the fabulous Secretariat, Bold Ruler and countless more.   We visited their graves with sadness and admiration.

Secretariat's grave at Claiborne Farm. It is customary to bury only the head, heart and hooves of
race horses. Secretariat was buried intact. It was discovered that "Big Red" had a heart weighing an astonishing 22 pounds, twice the size of most horses. It was not enlarged, just larger in size.  That, experts say, no doubt contributed to his tremendous stamina. 

The next day took us to the Kentucky Horse Park, where we saw beautiful statuary, breeds of horses that we never knew existed, and watched the Parade of Champions, retired horses included the Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse and more.

As we walked into the park, we were immediately drawn to the commanding statue and memorial of Man o' War. Though he ran his races just after World War I, he is still considered to be one of the greatest Thoroughbred race horses of all time.

Man o' War, Secretariat and Barbaro

We even managed to find time for the Collie dog show in Shelbyville, Ky.  That was the real reason for the trip, or maybe not.  Anyway, little guy did good and looked like the champion he is close to being in the ring.
To top off the trip we stopped for a tourist tour of Churchill Downs. WOW. It gave me chill bumps to walk in that paddock, see the track, sit in the stands and just imagine the great horses that have walked those grounds. When I took this pic in the gate, I knew we were tired and silly and it was time to come home.
I'm so grateful to my friends for letting me go along on these horse adventures. Thankful I didn't kill myself after a long break from riding—thankful I have friends that indulge me on these adventures—thankful for my lifelong love of horses, the ultimate gift from my daddy.
Since I've gotten home, I've dreamed in two-, three- and 4-beat cadence, smelled horses in my sleep and been absolutely at peace.  Maybe I'm not through.

The only thing that would have been any more fun, would be that we stayed until Oct. 31 for the $5 million Breeders Cup at Keeneland where Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh hopes to take his victory lap into retirement.   GO AP!!!


  1. Ever so jealous!!! So glad you got to go.

  2. Added a few pics. Thanks for reading.