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Beginning of the End
Sweat trickles down my chilled neck as my arms hang limply on the pommel. I am sorely tempted to remove my feet from the bendable stirrups but the fact that I am sitting atop a ticking time bomb forced me to keep them in place. My ticking time bomb is Good As Gold (oh the irony) also known as Goldfish.
After fifteen minutes of "fun" on the longe line, thirty-five minutes of straight hacking, fifteen minutes of jumping, and countless explosions, this feisty young thoroughbred is barely out of breath. Goldfish is a handsome 16.1 hand chrome chestnut crazy man with a star, snip, stocking, and elegantly roached mane. He has an enormous, deep chest and athletic build fit for an eventer, yet his flowing stride belongs in the hunter ring. Goldfish is as unpredictable as the weather. Due to his short attention span and surges of uncontrollable energy, he is only ridden by one person, his owner Jamie. Jamie is in her first year of college and is in need of somebody to ride him. I am outgrowing my little perfect pony and am in need of a new, big challenge. Together, these puzzle pieces fit perfectly.
I run my gloved fingers absentmindedly through his silky mane and watch as the flood of riders flow in. Goldfish and I were lucky enough to have had the ring to ourselves.
"You're such a good boy, Goldfish! Don't you see how much fun it is to reee-laaaa-xxx?" I mumble in his ear as I stretch out along his muscular neck and rub his ears. I receive a hefty snort in reply.
I pull him to a halt along the fence and slump in the saddle for a moment. I give him his head and allow him to stare off into space and I follow suit. After a minute or two, I hear a nearby crackle of fall leaves being stepped on. Looking out into the neighboring field, and I see a white pony covered in a navy sheet staring at me. Charmer, the best teacher in the world, is staring at me with curiosity, as if he is seeing something new. Instead of the resentful/envious look I usually receive when I am caught riding another horse, he is gazing at me with serenity in his eyes.
I know he knows something I don't. It is always that way. For some odd reason, I feel that this time we are on the same page. The wind blows, intertwining the three of our souls with a barrage of chromatic leave in this one moment.
You know, I whisper in a plaintive voice only audible to my past and future. He does not move. He knows that like many little girls before me, including Goldfish's owner, that I am leaving him and that the curtain of our three years together is closing; the scene is ending. I am not just abandoning him, I am taking with me every scrap and seemingly unimportant lesson with me: the importance of stretching my heels down on windy days; of shutting the stall door completely or you pony will make a break for it; of always removing the halter first thing when turning your horse out, or when you remember and try to catch your pony, he will chase you; making sure you hold on super tight to your lame horse when you are walking him after he has not been out in two weeks; making sure there is enough room between the stall and pony so that when your pony tries to squish you, there is an escape; and the fact that carrots are better than hugs but one of each keeps a good balance.
The seconds pass by in what seems like hours, and finally, with an unwavering gaze, he walks off, not the gradual stroll away but a defiant and planned departure. Somewhere deep inside myself I know that he is not mad. I just know it is his way of surrendering his perfect little punching bag who eventually turned into his constant companion and "boo-boo" fixer. I eventually was granted special privileges, such as being permitted to give hugs around his neck, not having to use a lead rope, getting kisses, and rubbing that "tickle spot" on his belly without getting bitten.
Simultaneously, Goldfish picked up a brisk walk without any indication whatsoever from me, who had become a sack of potatoes on his back. I sat frozen just watching my past and future depart from each other, like a bird pushing off from a very tall branch into the endless blue sky. I felt like a dedicated fan at a football game sitting on the stands and watching the quarterback receive a brutal sack as he throws a touchdown pass. As a fan, I can do nothing but watch in a mix of horror and joy; and as Nicole all I can do is watch in horror as joy and my past closes and future opens.
"Did you like him?" calls the echoing voice of my trainer from the center of the ring. Slowly I shake myself out of my reverie and act as if I have actually ridden before.
"Yes! I love him and learned so much!" I respond in a voice that seems to belong to someone else. Oh, I definitely love Goldfish immensely, but at the time, I was half in a dream and half in real life.
"Good! You did real well on him," she responds in a voice that proves that she is thoroughly convinced I am paying her the up most attention.
"Thanks," I respond as I recede back into my thoughts. This is not goodbye, it is the beginning of the end. It is something we all have to accept.