When I was around 11, I came across a notepad among the knickknacks in the local tack shop. I was drawn to it because of a cartoon---a girl lying on her stomach atop an unsaddled horse, with a pen and pad poised on the horse’s rump. “I’m a rider and a writer,” the caption said.
That pad was made for me. It was through written words that I came to love horses. When I was in second grade, I got a chunky little children’s version of Black Beauty for Christmas. The story left me teary and determined: Horses had to be in my life.
My parents required some convincing. I used words to my advantage, as I waged a campaign to convince them that I needed to ride. I borrowed books from the library and wrote down nuggets of useful information, like “Riding is not as dangerous as skiing,” and how good it was for posture. The hard work paid off when I was signed up for lessons at a local barn.
Horses became a full-fledged passion. I spent all my evenings at the barn, dropping my stirrups or knotting my reins to ride hands-free---anything to impress my trainer. At the same time, a second passion was burning more quietly each day in school. I worked equally hard in class, trying to catch the eye of my writing teacher. Once I turned in a 1,000-word story when the word count required was only 150. It worked, and the encouragement was addictive.
At home, I brought my two passions together. I kept a journal with the name of every horse I’d ridden and a tally of every fall I took. I had read that you weren’t a good rider until you fell off at least a few dozen times---so it was something of a silver lining every time I checked another tumble off the list.
As I became a teenager, however, riding lost a bit of its shine for me. I became more interested in talking on the phone and writing notebooks full of poems---about boys, not horses. I had no idea that my parents’ divorce was looming, and soon the decision to stop riding would essentially be made for me.
I never quite lost the urge to be around horses, but a future in the equine world seemed distant and unattainable. So after college I chose a career in writing. I love the work, but the inspiration sometimes wears thin. When I have these creative dry spells, I always find myself thinking about horses and what could have been. What kind of rider might I have become? What opportunities would I have found? Would I have pulled out those barn plans I once sketched and started something of my own?
These questions haunt me because I often wonder if I made the right decision. I’ve been longing to ride again but afraid to start. I had always told myself I just couldn’t afford horses on a writer’s salary, but it’s really always been the fear of loving it---and losing it---again.
Well, no more excuses. Why should a person have to choose just one passion in life? Almost 10 years since I left my college riding team, I’ve signed up for riding lessons. So here I am, once again, both excited to ride and inspired to write. Maybe I really am meant to be both a rider and a writer.
We’ll call this my second draft, and we’ll see.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #469, October 2016.