|See the Goddess web album.|
Here’s a picture of me taken when I was 5, according to the note on the back. I’m pictured with Goddess the Shetland pony, my childhood best friend and riding instructor. I was given Goddess when I was two years old (nearly three, I’m sure). That makes 30 years of riding, for those of you keeping count.
I actually recall the first time I ever saw Goddess. It’s sort of a dark memory, and I remember a gathering of people standing in a circle. I’m about knee height, and I’m peaking around people’s legs. I pretty sure it was in the evening, in the front of Grandma’s house. I feel or understand that there is something expected of me, that something momentous is going to happen. The center of the circle is somehow light, and into this light comes this large golden being, about my height, but much larger than me. I’m pretty sure I screamed in terror, because the memory ends abruptly there.
Goddess belonged to a friend of my Grandparent’s, Pat Hudson, who owned a preschool. Goddess had been raised there with the children. When Pat decided to sell the preschool, she offered to sell Goddess to my Grandparents, who’d just bought four acres (and we’d bought an additional two next door) in Paso Robles. Grandma declined, and so Pat said: I’ll give the pony to your granddaughter, you can’t turn that down!
I actually attended that preschool after it had been sold. We didn’t move to our two acres bordering Grandma’s four acres until I was in Junior High. Many of the staff at the preschool had known Goddess when I attended, which pissed me off. How could they know my pony!?
To transport Goddess from Anaheim to Paso Robles, Grandfather had built a small pen in the back of his e150 van. He loaded some hay in the van, then turned away. He’d expected to have to use some strong persuasion to load Goddess into the van, but he turned around and Goddess had climbed into the van by herself and was happily eating hay. He loved to tell the story of how he let Goddess run free in the van, and she parked herself up at the front where she could look out the windshield and rest her head on his shoulder. People would speed drive by on I5, then realize there was a pony in the passenger seat, and slow down to look, craning their necks to see.
I remember when I was taught how to turn left, right, go and stop, then turned loose. I called my Dad for Father’s Day, and he told me a story about me begin about three years old riding around bareback and falling off Goddess as she trotted around like it was no big deal, totally fearless. She was pretty small, my Grandfather could almost pick her up. I started out bareback, but at some point Grandpa insisted I use a saddle, which I hated. All I ever wanted was an English saddle (I already had the pony) and bareback was as close as I could get. I’m sure today I’d have been given a helmet instead.
Goddess liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so when we went off on our adventures, I’d pack one for each of us. If I could steal some carrots from the garden, I’d tie some of those to the saddle, too. We were allowed to go wherever we wanted, as long as we were home by sunset. Grandma told me if I ever got lost, Goddess would always know the way home, and there was more than one occasion that I proved her right. I’d be off exploring some field or another that I wasn’t supposed to be in and realize that the sun was low on the horizon, and I had no idea what direction home was. Grandma lived in a valley, there were very few houses, very few trees, and hardly any roads. I could actually be pretty close to home and not know it because there were no landmarks. I’d drop my reins and let Goddess go. She’d graze for a few moments, then realize she was in charge and it was dinner time, and start trotting for home. I learned to trust my partner and to sit a pony trot quite early in life.
There were many other times that Goddess decided it was time to come home rather unexpectedly. She’d drop her shoulder and dump me, then run galloping home to tell Grandma all about it. Grandma still laughs when she tells of Goddess galloping home, her mane and stirrups flying. About ten minutes later, I’d come storming furiously down the hill. I’d tell Grandma we “aren’t speaking to Goddess anymore!”
One of the proudest moments in my life is when I figured out how to not get dumped. It surprised both of us. I went to year-round elementary school in Anaheim. I’d be in school for three months, then have a three week break, with a 5 week break for summer. It was the beginning of a vacation break, and there were a bunch of us kids riding and playing together near the creek that snaked through the valley and Grandma’s property. I recall that Goddess ran toward the creek, then dropped her shoulder. I stayed with her, not really realizing what had happened. Goddess immediately tried it again, and it dawned on me: she’d tried to dump me and failed! Twice!
Goddess was allowed to roam the property as the mobile lawn mower, though I think she was rarely found on the actual one-quarter or so front lawn grandma maintained. I remember one morning walking around looking for Goddess everywhere. I’d finally given up and was walking back to the house, around the pond and across the substantial bridge Grandpa had built. I was looking down at my feet as I walked along the gravel path through the yard when I noticed pony tracks in the dewy grass to the left. There were little feet tracks and a dragging swish of a tail in the center, I followed them around the curve and there Goddess was, next to the gate asking to be let out into the field with the other horses.
I think Goddess was 27 years old and I was about 8 when my Grandparents had to have Goddess put down. I think she’d developed some sort of cancer. I wasn’t there when it happened. She was a great mentor, babysitter, partner in crime, and friend. I am so greatful I got to have her in my life! I get the same feeling of contentment, understanding, partnership, and trust when Whisper and I go out exploring together. I can’t imagine any other reason for riding a horse.
After Goddess passed away I was given Bud, a five year old Pony of the America’s gelding that Dad says Grandpa had me riding quite a bit while he was training Bud. Bud was named by my Grandfather, and I often wonder why I never came up with a better name for him. We had many amazing adventures together, but I think that’s fodder for another entry.