A Prelude to Dreams
As the dawn slowly began to melt the dark horizon, Amy stirred under her covers and wearily opened her eyes. She had needed no alarm clock to awaken her on this morning. Today was going to be special. Only a few minutes were needed for her to bring herself to full awareness and then she was up, springing out of bed and reaching for her robe.
Her feet quickly found the slippers by her bedside and her toes squirmed their way deep inside. It was something she had done so many times on so many mornings that she didn't even need to think about the movement. It just happened on its own. After flipping her blankets back over her bed in a manner that somewhat resembled the neat and orderly vision her bed had been before she had slept in it, she snatched a pen off of her desk and moved to the calendar that hung on the far wall. All of the previous dates were marked off with a large black X and now she stared at the one date that had been circled. Inside the circle was a simple statement that she had been longing to cross off for the last two months. It was only two words, but it meant her whole world at the moment. First ride. She smiled as she carefully drew the long awaited X through the date and then scurried out of her bedroom towards the kitchen.
She found her mother at the stove already, keeping a watchful eye on a batch of French toast that was already cooking in the pan. She looked over her shoulder as Amy walked in and said her good mornings. Amy responded in kind and settled herself down at the small table in the corner. Before her sat the neatly arranged breakfast dishes but she hardly saw them, she was too excited to really even think about food at the moment but she knew that her mother would never let her out of the house without eating something first.
She kindly accepted the breakfast as her mother slid it onto the plate and she went about eating it as fast as she could, trying to ignore the disapproving looks that her mother shot in her direction. Normally her mother would have outright scolded her for eating so fast and without regard for manners, but her mother seemed to understand the urgency; she too was well aware of what day it was. She had decided to give up the fight with her daughter before it could even start.
Breakfast finished, Amy tossed a quick thanks to her mother for the food and then made for the bathroom. She ran a brush through her hair and pulled it back into a tight ponytail. A toothbrush was hastily scrubbed across her teeth and a wet washcloth made quick work of the remains of breakfast left on her face. Next it was off to her room to change.
Slim comfortable leggings and a short-sleeve top were pulled on without hesitation. She had some trouble getting the tall leather boots on but her determination held no room for argument. The black leather soon popped over her feet and she felt the comforting squeeze of them around her calves.
Now completely dressed and ready to go, she approached a cloth covered mound in the corner and pulled off the cover. Beneath the dark fabric lay a dark brown English saddle and matching bridle, today was the first day that she would be able to use them. Today was going to be memorable.
She tucked the saddle under one arm and slipped the bridle over the other. They were somewhat awkward to keep track of but she didn't mind. She knew that one day the act of carrying the tack would come as naturally as walking and she felt a tug at her heart as she longed for that day to arrive. She would have gained so many memories and experiences by the time that day came.
Her mother met her at the front door and planted a kiss on the top of her head as she held the door open for her daughter to pass through. Amy skipped down the steps and hurried over to the barn that sat at the far end of their property. The dew was still sparkling on the grass but the sun had already started to make its journey up from the horizon. Where its rays touched the grass she could already see that the dew was beginning to fade.
Inside the barn it was warm and comforting. The smell of hay and the warm scent of horse washed over her as she set her saddle on a nearby rack and wandered over to the one and only occupied stall. Soft brown eyes gazed at her through the metal bars as she heard the quiet sound of munching just beyond. Her father had already gone in before he had left for work. She had still been sleeping while he had slipped out to feed her new horse and refill the water-bucket hanging in the corner. He had known that she would want to ride as soon as possible and wouldn't want to waste time with chores.
She knew that this was a one-time thing. After this the chores would be her own responsibility, but she had no qualms about it. Chores were just part of owning a horse and if chores meant that she could have one as her very own, then chores were nothing to be complained about.
She pulled the lead line off of a hook near the stall and slid the door open just enough to sneak through, her horse looking at her with a curious gaze as he happily munched the few remaining bits of his early meal. She rubbed his nose and clipped the line to his halter before finally opening the stall door the rest of the way. He followed her obediently out of the stall and stood patiently as she clipped him into the cross-ties that hung on either side of the short hallway.
Next came the quick, yet thorough, grooming. Brushes and combs flicked away the bits of bedding and dirt that had somehow managed to work themselves into her horse's coat. She curried, brushed, and combed with practiced ease. Her frequent trips to a neighbor's house, who also owned horses, had been beneficial. The neighbor's daughter had begrudgingly shown her the finer points of grooming a horse and how to operate the buckles on the many bits of tack that were used when riding. She had always paid close attention to the instructions, giving almost no thought to the fact that they had only come about because of the insistence of the older girl's parents, and she now had no regrets of the time she had spent. It had definitely paid off.
Barely half an hour later her horse was shining and fully tacked up. His black mane and tail were shimmering and floated like silk on the gentle breeze that drifted through the barn as she opened the main door.
After unclipping him from the cross-ties, she led her horse out of the barn and over to where her father had set up a mounting block, knowing that his daughter was still a little too short and the horse was a little too tall. She carefully positioned the horse so that he was standing in the correct position, her hands soft and gentle as she prodded him to move where she wanted. As she did so she saw out of the corner of her eye that her younger sister was sitting out on the front steps of the house, longingly watching every move that she made with the tall bay horse.
Amy's mouth quirked into a small smile; she remembered the days that she sat on the fence line and watched her neighbor mount up. She remembered the longing that she had felt as she had watched her put the horses through their paces, moving effortlessly around the arena. How she had wished she had been the one in the saddle, her heart aching at every stride the horses made. Her neighbor had noticed her, had told her in a haughty voice how she wasn't allowed to give rides. The horses were her's and she didn't want a snotty eight-year-old ruining the training she had worked so hard at. Amy had nearly cried at the statement. What harm would there have been for her to just sit on the horse while her neighbor led it around. That was all she had been looking for; the comforting feel of the horse beneath her and the simple rocking motion of its gait.
She checked the girth on the saddle again to make sure that it was still tight enough and looked over at her sister again. She could see the same wishful thoughts flitting behind the sad amber eyes and the same lines of disappointment that wrinkled her brow as she watched someone else do something that she could only hope for. The sight hurt almost as much as when she had sat on that white fence and watched her neighbor all those years ago.
She looked up into the liquid brown eyes of her first very own horse and struggled with her emotions. She was going to have her first ride and now she was feeling guilty all of a sudden. She shoved the thought aside and strode around her horse to the mounting block. She was going to get a ride in no matter what she was feeling. She deserved this. This had been her dream for as long as she could remember and everyone had a right to fulfill at least one dream in their life, right?
She was standing on the mounting block, her hand on the stirrup, when she suddenly stopped. This wasn't right. She couldn't bear the thought of having that same attitude of her neighbor. The neighbor girl had put her own wants ahead of others and had used the completely bogus excuse of ruined training to force Amy into accepting her denial of a ride. She had only wanted to continue riding on her own and didn't want to be bothered to go through the effort of letting a young girl have the experience of her life. She couldn't do that to anyone now that she had felt the pain that it had caused her.
She jumped down off the mounting block and grabbed the reins, pulling her horse behind her, as she walked, unwavering, towards her sister. The look of joy and squeals of delight filled her heart with happiness as she lifted her squirming sister up into the saddle. After a moment of quick instructions on how to hang on she gripped the reins again and walked her horse, precious sister perched in the saddle, slowly down the long dirt driveway. Everyone deserved to fulfill at least one dream in their life, right? No one ever said it had to be your own.
I still remember the time that two women came riding down the road in front of our house. My friend and I were outside when they appeared and we were quick to spot them. We had wished for a ride, that was granted, but we figured that we could only stand beside the road and watch them pass. What happened next made our day. The two women stopped and asked if we wanted to pet their horses. We quickly accepted and were further surprised when they asked if we wanted a ride.
No amount of words could express the happiness that we felt when they asked us that question. I still can feel the saddle under me as they led us up and down the driveway on their own horses. Joy can be given in the simplest of ways. And even though the delivery method is almost nothing of an effort, we can give someone something that will last a lifetime. I have yet to forget those two women who took a few moments of their time to give two young girls a brief moment of bliss. The time involved meant almost nothing to them, but meant everything to us.
To whoever you are that took the time, thank you!