“Why am I so dumb, Hobo?” I asked the short, jetblack gelding. I knew he couldn’t answer me, but I knew he could understand. Just two days ago, I had failed my first seventh-grade math test spectacularly, lost patience entirely at an annoying girl who I thought was my friend, and I continued to struggle with the facts of growing up. Now, staring into the eyes of someone I knew I could trust, I spilled it all out. And through everything, the glossy black eyes of my one true friend took everything in. When I ended my period of ranting, my wet eyes met his, and he looked back like always, and winked.
I threw my arms around his neck, and breathed in the smell of the horse. It was a smell that you learned to appreciate in my house, whether it was lingering in the car, collecting on my welcome mat, or biding its time on the bristles of one of the many brushes that scattered my floor. If you knew me personally, you’d know (and hopefully not be offended) that I’d switch a moment with you any time, for the presence of a horse. Right now, it was one of those times, a dewy Sunday morning, where the first signs of bitter fall were creeping in. You saw a lot of it inside the barn alone, the first burgundy stable blankets were being dusted off, the first-time riders all went out to buy expensive thermal jodhs, only to find out later that unless you were constantly visiting the barn during Snow Days and the likes (like me) you wouldn’t have any use for them. And the biggest preparation, the long-listed variety of shows, hunter paces, and fund-raisers that shared the season. But all of these things didn’t faze me at all; they were just minor details that added to the daily barn atmosphere. All I really cared about were the horses, and how I would spend time with them. To almost all but me, fall was an entirely different season. Me, I didn’t even know when the season began, and had no idea when it would disappear.
My train of thought slowly faded away, as I realized that my one thousand pounds of heaping affection was nosing around my coat pockets, looking for a tasty treat. “Oh, sorry, handsome, I forgot the carrots today!” I clapped a hand to my head in exasperation and reached over to stroke the gelding’s long, dark forehead. He nickered softly and closed his eyes, begging for more. All of my past was forgotten, as the love of my horse took over me like a second skin.
Hobo snorted and shook his head, relieving himself of an itch. “Silly boy!” I laughed as he tried to nip my jacket. I glanced at my watch, it was still pretty early, and so I decided to take my horse out for a ride.
“I know you’re not The Biscuit, old boy,” I told him briskly, throwing a saddle on his back. I knew it sounded like one of those corny lines from a Saddle Club movie, but it gave me a tingly sense of satisfaction. I knew my horse could run, I just didn’t know how to get him there.
After checking that everything was on correctly, I placed a hand on the gelding’s sleek, black neck. “Let’s go,” I said, my voice barely holding back my excitement. I had waited all week to get on him and just run. I knew that through a week of hard exercise, dealing with refusals of rails, and helping out with beginner lessons, all I needed was to feel the sensation of a flat-out gallop.
I slowly led Hobo out into the world; he followed obediently behind me, as if he had never done anything wrong in his entire life. I mounted up with ease, slipping my leather-clad feet into my stirrups, and gripping the reins tightly with both hands. I could see the faces of some of my friends, as they watched me with amusement. They too had their own horses to groom; and little girls to help. But not me; at this moment, it was me, Hobo, and a blank uncharted road in front of me.
I suddenly thought about the pain I had suffered through this past week, the hellish realities of a horseless, thirteen-year-old girl’s life. A life that just didn’t sit well for me.
So I made a decision, it was a rash one; I would almost call it an impulse. My decision was that I would leave it all behind. In a second all the harsh realities would look a lot smaller than they were now. In an instant, I urged Hobo forward with my legs, and like an orchestra, the symphony began.
At first, the strides were steady, clean, show-ready. I leaned forward in the saddle, and let him break out into a full run. I am honest to say that my gelding was never War Admiral or Man o’ War, but if you had been watching me, you wouldn’t know the difference.
As my thick, blond hair flew back in all directions, I suddenly remembered my math teacher, passing out my appalling grade, on that rainy Friday morning. Suddenly, like an accidental breeze, the moment had fallen behind, like a struggling horse on the last homestretch. Ha! I thought to myself, feeling like a new world had just begun.
I felt Hobo’s powerful strides beneath me. They were not labored, nor were they showing any signs of reduction. He was running for me, and no one could ever stop us.
The red-faced, demanding looks of that annoying girl I was holding a grudge against, suddenly were whipped from my mind, and went spiraling fast into the earth beneath me. Suddenly, the entire week was going with it, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday . . . I couldn’t stop myself from letting out a whoop of excitement, which made my horse go faster. Suddenly, I was no longer riding a small black gelding, but a proud and regal thoroughbred that made up my nightly dreams. And the uneven, New Jersey ground below me suddenly gave way, and the white glow of Churchill Downs sang back at me. And the wind that was racing against my side now had transformed into a pack of significant others, struggling to keep up with me. And my eyes blurred with unshed tears as I passed by the barn at a full gallop, only to me, it was the brightly colored Kentucky Derby finish line. My mind screwed up in concentration, as I passed by a number of envious little girls, dressed in their powder-blue shirts, and spotless jodhpurs, watching me in awe. I did not bother to slow down; the power of the gallop was all too great to destroy.
And then, I heard one of the little girls behind me speak. “Look! She must be an angel. She’s flying without wings.”