When I was a child of about eight, I fell in love with horses. I pestered my parents for a pony, then a horse, for years, until they sent me for the summer to Michigan to ride horses with their dear friends the Davenports. It was pure, horse-scented bliss, but it was brief. Our Navy life did not lend itself to owning horses because we moved every two years or so.
Thirty-five years later, after half a lifetime of yearning, I bought my own horse, a beautiful half-Arab mare called Mira. She was gentle, responsive, and a huge joy in my life. We rode together in the fields of western New York state, taking my dog Chica along for the fun - ever since I was a kid watching Roy Rogers with his horse Trigger and his dog Bullet, that had been my dream. She was, literally, a dream come true. That's Mira in the first picture.
When I moved to California after my divorce, I decided to leave Mira in New York. She was of retirement age by then and was happily integrated into the small herd of horses where I kept her, so I just continued to pay her barn bills rather than move her across country to start again. Three years later, when My Beloved and I got married, my friends in New York braided her mane with flowers in honor of the wedding and sent me this photo of her, the last I have. She aged gently there and, finally, was buried on the property where she spent her peaceful retirement.
I brought my beautiful, second-hand, Passier saddle with me, thinking I might ride a different horse here, but I never did. I rode a couple of others but it just wasn't as satisfying as my Mira had been so the saddle went into the garage to be pulled out every six months or so to be cleaned and oiled, then zipped back into its protective cover to wait for another six months to pass.
Finally, when we cleaned out the garage, which had been the staging area for the kitchen renovation, I decided it was time to move the saddle along. I couldn't bear to sell it - it just had too many happy memories attached to it - so when I heard about the James Brady Therapeutic Riding program, it seemed the exactly right place for my saddle to go. I met Sarah, the director of the local program, one day at Tal-y-Tara, the tea shop her family runs. So, a few months later, when the renovation was finished, we made contact and I brought my saddle and other assorted horse stuff to Golden Gate Park's Bercut Equitation Field.
Sarah's horses are small, shaggy, sturdy mounts, endlessly patient with the children who ride in the program. Daisy and Olaf take carrots from young hands so carefully that parents have no fears. The children love them so much that even after their turn is over, they sometimes follow the horses around on foot. Daisy is the mare with the fetching dark forelock; she looks like the horse version of a punk rocker with her bi-colored mane. Olaf has a more flaxen mane.
As Sarah gets access to larger horses, she plans to begin therapeutic riding for older children and for wounded warriors. She is looking for someone with full-sized horses to trailer them to the park for use in the program, so if you know anyone who has good, calm horses and is willing to give some time to the program, you can contact Sarah through the Brady website.
Even though I know my saddle will go to a good cause, I was still a little sad as we drove away, knowing that my riding days are over. While I still owned the saddle, there was always the chance that another Mira would come into my life. Now, I'm pretty sure she won't. It is hard for me to say farewell to that part of my life, so My Beloved put his arm around me as we walked away.