In my imagined ride, I walked and trotted and cantered and galloped alongside the car I was in, on the terrain that paralleled the roadway. There were obstacles. Ditches and fences and forests and things that had to be jumped or sometimes ridden around.
It was me on that big bay horse, everywhere I went. For years and years of my life, until I got my first horse, a chestnut with a wide white blaze and four white socks, and then again when he was sold after I went off to college.
Even as an adult I realized I still rode the big bay, off to the far right of the green minivan, with my children in their carseats in back. I think that big bay became my guardian, or maybe just a reminder that I was born wanting to ride and even during periods of time when I didn't, the desire remained, and was, in a way, fulfilled by my imagination.
It was no surprise that when I typed in my dream horse to DreamHorse.com I typed in a big bay with a white star. I've recounted that story several times here - the result of that query was Keil Bay, the REAL Big Bay, who has turned out to be the actual dream horse come true for me.
We've been riding again last week and this week after several months off. He is a horse who, when I take him into the arena and drop the rein to go set right a dressage marker that was tipped over by donkeys, marches to the mounting block and lines himself up and waits for me to come get on.
He is the horse who reminds me that he needs shoulder-in to work out the stiffness, and who shows me that was the exact right thing to do by offering a big lovely trot just after the shoulder-in.
At the end of the ride he lines up perfectly so I can dismount onto the mounting block, and waits patiently while I climb down to the ground and dig out his peppermint from my pocket. He follows me to the gate and goes ahead when I ask him to the tack room door where he waits while I take off his bridle and saddle and give him his Chaffhaye.
He is the horse who, in the midst of eating, which he loves to do, he will stop and turn around and touch his muzzle to my hand, a gesture I can only take to mean something good and kind.
I'm reminded that somehow, even as a little girl, I made up this big bay horse and the spirit of him and the image of him persisted into middle life and then manifested perfectly. When I ride him now I think how lucky I am and how grateful I am and when I get off and give him the peppermint I say thank you and I tell him that he's the best horse in the whole world. He is 26 years old and I know now that every single ride is a gift. Dressage is a not something I care much about these days, but it is a remedy, exercises that sustain us physically, not something that happens in an arena with a judge sitting at the end. Piaffe is no longer in the picture as far as I'm concerned.
Shoulder-in has become the most important piece of dressage work we do. It supples and seems almost like a healing balm. I see him doing it sometimes along the fence line in the pastures.
I'm rambling here but thinking about how sometimes there is a single line we can draw through an entire lifetime, a thing that has sustained us and been with us and remains. For me it's the big bay horse, always with me, always moving forward. And right now, I'm going to go give him a double pack peppermint and just breathe him in for awhile.