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Penny Horse Send

This haunting account of a woman’s life changing decision was written after the author was asked to write to this prompt: A Limitation I chose and how it affects my life. Art by Penny Scribner

The choices we make

By Penny Scribner

I have always had a horse.

When I was four, my Dad cut a branch from a madrone tree. It had a curve for a neck and a knot for an eye. It was my horse. I rode that stick for many miles through the orchard and beyond. We galloped, we cantered, we changed leads and trotted–but we seldom walked. Later, I took my jack knife and carved the brand PS on the left shoulder.

My first live horse came into my life in the fall of 1949. She was six months old and named Misty after Misty of Chincoteague, from the book of the same name.

It is sixty-seven years later, and Misty’s great-great grandson is waiting for daylight and for me to walk the driveway to the barn to feed him. Later I will catch him up, brush him, and perhaps give him a bath and comb out his white mane.

Will I ride him? No.

That is my limitation.

The years of seeing the world from the back of a horse are over. My heart and mind wander those thousands of miles of the west, from the back orchard to riding across half the continent, seeing the earth between the ears of a horse.

Could I climb a mounting block, a picnic table and lurch, or launch myself onto the back of a horse. Yes. Will I? No. Why, I ask myself as I watch other aging friends move down the trail or around the arena. Horses have been my life, almost ruined my marriage, my relationship, and my family. My mother always said, “. . . I thought I was raising a daughter, not a horseback rider.” But I had, in fact, become more horseback rider than daughter. Once I got up from a Thanksgiving table, leaving family with dishes and the turkey so I could load up and drive to the last endurance ride of the year to win points and the West Region Championship. I’ve cried harder and longer over the loss of a horse than the loss of a parent.

My limitation is fear. Perhaps I chose it. Perhaps it chose me. I only know I don’t want to be hurt again. I don’t want to be “sipping apple sauce through a straw.” After many accidents– and they are all accidents because it is never the horse’s fault–many concussions and two near death experiences, I have concluded it is not worth it. My balance is gone, and my will to “just do it” is gone.
Recently, an experienced rider I knew died in a horse accident. He is not the first. I always say, “When the chips are down, a horse will be a horse.” They are prey animals and they will respond accordingly.

I feel blessed to have had the experiences I’ve had–the world I’ve seen and the countless adventures with the many horses that passed through my life. For that I am grateful.

I chose this limitation because I know the danger in not choosing it. This decision affects my life on a daily basis. I no longer plan my year around the calendar of competitive rides, I no longer spend my weekends trailering to the next trail head, I no longer ride in the rain and slip down a muddy trail, and I no longer feel that magnificent body move under me or hear a hoof tip a rock.

I can still smell the sweetness of horse: the sweat, the hay, even the manure. I can wash and brush and clean hooves, put on fly masks and put out the fly-predators. I can move around and touch each horse as they do me. For this I am grateful.

This limitation is a life change for me. It is a “sea change.” It is both the physical fear of another injury and the psychological and emotional realization of what my commitment to my horses and to competition did both FOR me and TO me.

The good news is that I am not sipping apple sauce from a straw, nor am I in a wheelchair or a nursing home.

I still have that stick horse. That prized first horse has traveled many more miles as we’ve moved from place to place. It now has a golden thread woven around the dried and splitting curved wood.

see that golden thread as a connection to all those trusting horses which followed me through sixty seven years.


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