The Horse That Built Me: Sunny
Miranda Lambert penned a song about the house that built her. The lyrics portray her revisiting her childhood home to collect old memories – hoping that by touching the place she grew up, and reliving milestones in her life she could stitch the pieces together to find herself.
For as long as I can remember I have been crazy about horses. I didn’t have Barbies, I had Breyers (and do you remember “Grand Champion” horses?!). I didn’t play “house”, I set up extravagant barns for my toy horses, and gave each horse a registered name and faux pedigree. I started riding lessons at about 3 years old and couldn’t get enough. Even the sight of a horse was intoxicating for me. I was hopelessly addicted.
“I was drawn to horses as if they were magnets. It was in my blood… Perhaps there’s a quirk in the DNA that makes horse people different from everyone else, that instantly divides humanity into those who love horses and the others, who simply don’t know.”
– Allan J. Hamilton
This summer, I’ve attempted to revisit the horses that built me. The horses that I’ve owned and leased over the course of my life. The horses who shaped my experiences, personality, and childhood. I wanted to take their portraits to immortalize the memories I have with them.
The first horse of “my own” came when I was in the 2nd grade when I leased a 33 year old horse named Sunny. Sweet Sunny passed away many years ago, so I wasn’t able to take his portraits this summer.
In fact, I don’t have any pictures of him (which completely breaks my heart, and is the main reason for this project), so allow me to describe him as I remember…
a swayed back, gently carrying generations of little girls
wise eyes, a patient teacher
dorsal and leg stripes, a golden dun color
long whiskers, on a muzzle kissed a billion times
long coat, the soft kind you can run your fingers through
big, wide hooves, carrying an even bigger heart
I loved him so much it ached. I vividly remember tears streaming down my face in my bed one night, as I cried to my mother about how the other girls who used to ride him barely greeted him anymore. They loved their new horses now and treated him like a stepping stone. I promised her that I would never treat him like that. I would be different. I would love him forever.
I took him treats but he had a hard time eating them. After I would ride, I would soak his senior feed in water and offer him the soupy, sloppy mix from my cupped hands. I would walk the fence of the pasture and let him hand graze before turning him back out. I bought him my first saddle with the money I’d saved up for a lifetime — it was a Circle Y barrel racing saddle about 30 years old and I still have it.
It was the first time I felt so emotionally connected to a horse. Before, I loved the idea of horses. Now, I loved my very own (leased) beauty. I never showed him. I didn’t have him for long before I purchased my first pony (coming along in the next blog post!). But my favorite memories were “trail riding” with him in the pastures. My smile was probably a mile wide. He was the kind of horse that filled my little 7 year old self with tons of confidence. On the back of my trusty steed, I could conquer the world. He went everywhere I asked, he did everything I told him to. I felt respected, powerful, and strong. Looking back, horses like that are absolutely priceless.
Don’t worry, my next pony deflated that confidence a bit, haha… Read more about Raz here!