• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 11
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Did you ride horses?

“Did you ride horses?” my daughter inquires, eyes underlined with diamonds at breakfast, heart strings hopefully taut, seeking a mirrored difference, an umbilical, equestrian rope to tie us together: mother-daughter-horse. She loves horses. Did I love horses? When I was little. Little. Her age.
Deep breath. Fingers slide on kitchen table, struggling with solid wood. Somewhere, I fall; a rhizoid journey, back in time. Down the rabbit hole, I open the file marked “Childhood Horses”.
There, I lie curiously in a muddy field, flat on back. Eyes open to the clouds. Stepmother looms, shouting, “Get up! Get up!” I push myself upright, pretend my legs don’t wobble. Another failed attempt to do-it-right; the horse riding, jumps, jodhpurs, neat ponytail, walk, trot, canter. Training. On Sundays, stepmother surveys the foxhunt through ink black binoculars. The foxhunt my mum says is “Wrong”. I try to please them, keep my feet in the stirrups, to ascend. Everywhere.
“Go on! Go on!” stepmother bellows, a jagged voice. She is obliged to break me in an un-groomed, step kid. Not a thoroughbred. She imprints me like a foal, introduces me to her human touch, and sticks me in a dressage saddle. But, everything is raw, untamed, wellington boots too big, because no one knows my foot size. Coat too small. Mud on chin. Straw strands crash in my bush of hair; I remount, swing one leg over, draw an arch with my foot, the gateway of my line.
“Kick! Kick!” stepmother shouts again, trying to make me ride right, to harness me. Maybe, one day, I will win a rosette. A frill of life, pinned to my chest, a dead butterfly. I dig heels into horseflesh. We bite on bits. Metal calms our tongues. Black rubber thuds on flank. Horse walks, trots and I bump, bump up and down, try to rise and fall to horse’s dance.

Did you ride horses?

“Go on. Go on”, stepmother screams. I kick again. Horse moves to canter and I don’t stop kicking, can’t stop kicking and suddenly horse breaks into a gallop and I am flying, because I am the horse and the horse is me and existence is this movement, the beat of our hearts, this rush of life; freedom. This is fight-or-flight, our evolution from small mammals; horse and I flee from predators. We run, ride, gallop from Neolithic sanguine rock art, to a Nevada plain and circle around a perfect arc of moon.
Horse and I are never seen again. Ever.

In the kitchen, my daughter asks again,
“Did you ride horses?”
Out from the rabbit hole, I turn to face her, see the gallop in her breath.
“I did”, I answer.
Mother-daughter-horse; I toss her my lasso and my daughter catches it without turning.