Today, I'm twenty-eight.
I started riding when I was 17. My first riding lessons were a birthday gift from my parents, to a local english barn called Meadow Green Riding Stables. To be honest, it wasn't local, but rather an hour's drive on the far end of the closest city to my house.
But my dad couldn't find any other english barns. He had given me two choices: A local western barn (Miracle Ranch, that was in fact about 15 minutes from my house) or MG. I chose Meadow Green, because all of the brochures he gave me made it seem pretty fancy, prissy and hey, it was english! That meant jumping!
I got four riding lessons and one lesson in how to groom and tack up. It was...well for me, it was the best moment in my life. In reality, I was a scrawny 17 year old horse-obessed girl in a barn full of well-off kids who had been riding for years. So there I was, 17 and riding in a class with a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds.
I didn't care. I was taking lessons. And so Sugar and I went around the ring. Blissfully. I begged my dad to take pictures of me riding. (My mom didn't even come to the barn...she's scared of horses). Once or twice, he buggered off and went for coffee with a friend. No one in my family loved horses, so I just made do, happily waiting for him to be late so I could spend more time grooming.
After three lessons, my dad lost his job and my hope that they'd continue to buy my riding lessons were dashed.
But to this day, there was nothing more wonderful than those first lessons. I still cherish them, I still remember them, and I still have pictures of me from them. I'll have to pull them out sometime. It to me, made me officially a rider.
11 years have passed from those first lessons. I still happily ride with kids more than 10 years my junior, still in junior high school and I don't care. Because I *love* horses and riding and being around them matters most to me. I found barns far more accepting of who and how I am, and became friends with so many amazing riders that I'm truly blessed.
I can tell you a *lot* has changed from when I was 17, and nothing has changed.
I finally don't look like an anorexic stick, but I'm still a wiry, shy introvert with an obsessive passion for ponies.
I still remember being 17 and for *years* I had been told that someday, I'd meet boys and forget all about ponies. That a girl's love for horses dies when she becomes a woman. And at 17 and headed to my first riding lesson, I remember very honestly wondering if I would lose interest in horses once I had access to horses and once "the dream" was suddenly reality. Would they stop mattering to me?
And that thought scared me.
Guess what? It never happened.
When asked what would make my birthday special, it was taking my man for a trail ride.
For birthday week, I trail rode with one of my bests, AND I rode a new horse. And was nearly late for my family birthday dinner because of I couldn't stop riding I was enjoying myself so much.
I even spent Saturday afternoon watching "Flika 3"...from "Children's NetFlix"!
I got a tiny horse saddle charm from my close non-horsey friends!
And her daughter made me a birthday card covered in foam horses. : )
Reality? It's true. Even today, after 11 years of riding horses, I'm still the horse obsessed girl I was at 17.
...maybe more so. Maybe more so. : D