Girls, Ponies and Horses

in Essays

 Girls, Ponies and HorsesLas Cruces, way down in south­ern New Mexico, is a big dusty town massed around a small his­toric dis­trict; the Three Day Event we were attend­ing took place on the out­skirts, in a vast plain under rugged moun­tains, wind and drought stricken, golden in morn­ing light.

Ariadne (16) rode on Saturday in the dres­sage events, Iona (almost 13) rode on Saturday as well, and then on Sunday on a big cross coun­try course that blended imper­cep­ti­bly into the vast plain.

Jumping a horse was some­thing I never did as a child grow­ing up on a scrub mare in Kentucky, and I admire and respect the courage of girls (it’s almost always girls) who take on this chal­lenge. In the com­fort­able life we lead, this is a rare chance to deal directly with the pos­si­bil­ity of fear, of acci­dents, of loss—and these are the chances that con­vert girls into sturdy women; as a friend commented—her two daugh­ters were both cham­pion vol­ley­ball players—“Courage begins in the body.”

I’m not sure either of my grand­daugh­ters would agree with me, but to see the way they have mas­tered this sport after years of les­son is inspir­ing. (And muck­ing out sta­bles, feed­ing, groom­ing as well.) There will be greater chal­lenges ahead as they go out into the world, but gal­lop­ing across a dusty plain may be the best pos­si­ble prepa­ra­tion for deal­ing with a surly boss, a demand­ing boyfriend, or the com­plex­i­ties of nego­ti­at­ing a woman’s life in the twenty-first century.

View all of Sallie's online writing in her archives.

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