The day that would change my life did not even begin like an ordinary day. It was overflowing with excitement from the moment I awoke. This was to be the day I would find my true love: horses.
It all started when my family moved from the Detroit area to Flushing, Michigan. Flushing is rather large for a small town but it was a welcome change from Detroit’s constant sirens. There I saw an ad for horseback riding lessons. When I asked my parents about it, my mom was worried I would get hurt and Dad didn’t think I would stick with it, but after some pleading my parents agreed that I could take lessons.
As we made our way down the back roads, my excitement could not be contained. I rambled on and bounced around the car. A nauseating combination of excitement and terror tumbled in my stomach. As soon as we turned into the driveway, I was unbuckled.
Once introduced to my riding instructor, I had a tour of the barn. Stepping into the aisle, the aroma of fresh hay, the saddle leather, and the stress-relieving, mind-numbing, intoxicating fragrance of horses hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that I belonged. When I opened my eyes, my jaw dropped. I had never seen so many horses.
After my initial shock, I was introduced to Shannon, a stout Quarter Horse almost 15 hands tall who looked absolutely massive to me, a nine-year-old. She must have sensed my fear because as the instructor explained how to tack up, she looked deep into my eyes as if to say, It’s okay, little one. I’ll take good care of you. Her eyes were so reassuring that I let go of my fears and listened to the instructor.
When we were all tacked up, we made our way to the arena. Because it was my first time, I was put on a lunge line. With my helmet firmly in place, I put my foot into the stirrup and leapt onto the saddle. Everything felt so strange and awkward, but Shannon never faltered and with each step, my confidence grew. The years of being a show horse could still be seen in a flicker of Shannon’s huge chocolate eyes as she carried herself proudly.
As we neared the end of my first ride, the instructor told me to let go of the saddle horn. Apprehensive at first, I let one hand go and then the other. As we slowly circled I lifted my hands into the air. I felt free as a bird. I felt like this was where I belonged. My place in life would forever be on a horse.
When I dismounted, my legs were wobbly. I hugged Shannon so hard that my face was lost in a sea of black mane. Patting her silky brown neck, I felt so comfortable. When she was untacked, a sudden sadness overpowered me. The instructor asked what was wrong and I replied, “Now I have to wait until next week to come back!” My parents knew at that moment that this was not a one-time thing.
From that day on my life has been nothing but horses. From horse shows to trail rides, it has been horses, horses, and more horses. I belong on a horse. Even when I’m old, even if I can’t walk, I’ll find a way to be with the passion of my life. From the first awkward step to the rider I am today, I wouldn’t change a single fall, victory, or defeat. Who would have thought that a bay mare would put me in my place in this crazy world?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.