Day two - I had gone to bed feeling let down. You remember when you were a kid and that feeling of being certain that Santa was going to bring you that gift that you asked for. You could imagine playing with it and knowing for certain that everything in your life would be perfect if you just had that gift, and when you didn't get it the way you felt... kind of like that is the way I felt the night before. Day two of our trip was a new day. The sun was shining, I had a coffee in my hand and the world was a beautiful place (it's amazing what a little perspective and a good cup of coffee can do). I was also pretty excited because Christopher had booked the two big girls and I in for a horse ride. It was only $65.00 a person to ride for 50 minutes.
I come from a long line of horse people (not like centaurs or anything, just to be clear). Family legend says that Harrowsmith, Ontario was named after my paternal ancestors. They were the first blacksmiths in Upper Canada, specializing in "Harrows" (those are farm implements used to plow fields back in the days before tractors). My Great-Grandpa Buck (lovingly called Gampy by my sister and I) had a blacksmith shop in Harrowsmith. There my father spent his summers helping out his Grandpa and getting into mischief. It was there that my Dad earned his great love of horses (and his Grandma and Grandpa). My Dad still has a big horseshoe imprint on his back where a horse that he was helping to shoe kicked him. As a young man Dad took his great love of horses into a profession. He exercised horses for racetracks. He would travel with those horses sometimes even sleeping in the stall with them. On the off season he used to ride rodeo. When Mom became pregnant with me, Dad had to give up his great love to earn a good living to raise his family. You would think that with a family history like that my sister and I would have been brought up riding, but I didn't really have anything to do with horses until Gracie started taking riding lessons.
My friend Laura is a horse nut, and she is very well trained in English riding. She began giving riding lessons back when Gracie was 7 or so. It was then that I learned that I too loved horses. I used to help Gracie groom Caviar. Just touching that beautiful horse I felt almost a religious calmness. Sometimes when I didn't think anyone was looking I would hug Caviar's neck (Laura caught and laughed at me a few times). Laura kept telling me that she was going to get me up on a horse. It wasn't that I didn't want to ride, I did. It was that I was so afraid of hurting that poor horse that kept me out of the saddle. I just had visions of those cartoon horses with their legs all spayed at the sides groaning under my weight. I put riding on my bucket list, and promised myself that I would lose some weight.
We pulled up to the stables at Deerhurst. I was really excited by tentative. What if the person in charge took one look at me and told me I was too big to ride, I'm not sure that my fragile self- esteem could take that. Shortly after we arrived we met Casey. She was adorable. My mouth felt dry, but I had to ask "Could a horse hold my weight?" I asked, afraid to hear the answer. That little sweetheart looked at me like I had two heads. "Awww horses weigh like a thousand pounds, yup they can take you." I felt super excited!
Then Gracie mounted the steps to wait for Nora. Nora was an amazing horse, she was part Zebra. Now at first I thought that Casey was pulling our legs, and then once I was seated atop my behemoth of a horse I saw Nora's rump. Horses rumps look a lot like ours, only slightly different. They have a cleft at the top of their back. Nora's rump was round, like a zebra it was pretty cool.
After the girls were both mounted and in line, it was my turn. In the back of my head a little voice was shouting "What if you fall off?", "What if you're scared?", thankfully that little voice was very quiet and was overridden by the louder internal voice of "I'm finally doing this!!!!!! Woot Woot!!! I've just knocked an item off of my bucket list!!!!!!! Yay me!!!!!!!" As I stood atop the wooden structure, Casey came out of the stables with Titan. Titan was monster huge. I am prone to exaggeration, but not this time. The top of my head did not even touch the top of his back! He was beautiful. I climbed on. It was all I could do not to wrap my arms around his neck (it would have been quite a reach).
Off we went (after we had received instructions from Casey). As I sat there, I noticed that my back became very straight. It felt right to be on a horse. There was never an ounce of fear, and honestly there should have been! I'm afraid of heights, and I should have been afraid sitting atop Titan. Titan was once a horse from Medieval Times in Toronto, did I mention that I was riding a celebrity? A funny thing happened the more I rode. I began to no longer feel a separation between myself and Titan, we were one. I know that sounds hokey and stupid, but it's true. I completely trusted him.
We rode through beautiful wilderness. Up steep hills. From the front Casey would yell "When you're riding up a hill, pull yourself forward. When you're coming down the hill, lean back." We rode up to the top of a look out. It was stunning. We could see everything. I felt a sense of euphoria. I was doing this, this was real. I was living a dream that I had not thought possible. I fell in love with Titan.
Our ride ended where it began, at the stables. I was sad to have to get off, but at the same time relieved. I felt relieved because I now knew what they meant by saddle sores, and why cowboys walk funny. My bum hurt, but my pride soared. After we had come off of our horses I asked Casey if we could help to groom them. She looked surprised. I guess that most people are just happy to jump off of their horse and take off. "Sure" she said, and then showed the three of us where the brushes were, and told us how to take off the saddles. I walked into the small stall with Titan. I began to take off his saddle and then groom him. The whole time that dull little voice in the back of my head was whispering "You know he could kill you. You know that he could literally bite off half of your face?" Once again I ignored that voice and chose to love the moment that I was in. As I brushed him, Titan would on occasion take a second and nuzzle me. I wish that I could bottle up that peace, that joy that I felt at that second in time. At that split second in time, only I existed, myself and "my" horse. I wasn't a Mom, I didn't have worries, it was just me, me and "my" horse. Later when I was proudly telling my Dad about my horse riding experience, I kept telling him the above story. I should have been terrified, but I wasn't. Dad then told me "You know that horse's sense your fear? He knew you weren't afraid, and so he acted like that." Did I mention that I now want a horse? Maybe we could keep him in the basement.
When we were almost done grooming our horses, Christopher came with Elly and Rowan. Rowan was most taken with the big Newfoundlanders that were roaming around the stable property. It was then that I casually suggested to Christopher how much fun it might be to have a horse. He rolled his eyes. Casey then told us that some stables allow you to "lease" a horse. You pay a certain amount of money each month for them to care for the horse, and in return, you got to ride the horse. I think that I want to look into that.
Elly became quite in love with the puppies who also live at the stable. They were the friendliest pups that I have ever seen. As Elly put her hand down to pet them, at least five would rush over to touch her hand. This was all met with squeals of laughter from Elly. At one point I thought the kids had convinced their Dad to buy one of the pups. Christopher was really thinking about it. Do you know how big Newfoundlander Dogs are? They are huge. That would be great in our shoe box of a house, having two dogs running around with four kids.
Reluctantly I left the stables. I had fulfilled a promise to myself and it felt good. Apparently horses really do run in my blood. Casey was amazing, and I have only good things to say about our experience with her and with the stables. We will most definitely be coming back!
Stay tuned for tomorrows blog about what Christopher and Rowan and Elly
did while we rode, and about our dining experience.