I have so many memories of horseback riding with my mom. There was the time she and I were almost stampeded by a pastureful of bulls, when I was about 10 years old. A single, low strand of electric fence was all that separated us from them, yet my mother remained so calm I never realized the danger we were in.
“Let’s just get by them,” she urged, and we kept riding quietly on.
Another time, when my mom’s horse suddenly refused to go forward out in the woods, she dismounted and immediately began to sink in this weird, sandy mud that may’ve been quicksand. She backed quickly out, and used the incident as a learning opportunity.
“See?” she told me. “Always listen to your horse. If he balks, he’s probably trying to tell you something.”
Dawn to Dusk
My mom told me a lot of things when I was little and we were “doing horses” together. She’d pack us lunches and saddle up our mounts, and we’d ride the day away. It wasn’t unusual for us to leave when the fog still hugged the ground, and return home down that final stretch of the road in fading daylight.
But we did get into some pickles! Like the time a Doberman Pinscher was inches away from attacking my Shetland Pony. I was on that pony, and my mom was riding between me and the dog on her 16-hand palomino Quarter Horse.
“Don’t move,” she told me, her voice low and even. Her gelding, acting instinctively, turned his rump to the dog and threatened to kick. Suddenly the Doberman wasn’t so tough anymore.
“Good boy, Champ,” my mom said, stroking her horse’s neck.
Through all these adventures, had it not been for my mother’s cool-headed actions and our extremely well-trained horses, things could’ve ended much differently. But they all turned out fine. My mom saw to that.
Horses and Life
Thinking back on these experiences makes me appreciate so much all the time she spent with me—riding, grooming, cleaning tack, going to horse shows and auctions, even mucking stalls with me by her side. In retrospect, I can say that her gift of time was the most precious thing anyone’s ever given me.
Now that I’m older, I realize the hours and miles we logged together did much more than teach me about horses and riding. I learned many well-camouflaged life lessons, as well. Yes, I learned always to wear a helmet and to stay alert to my surroundings and to understand that a fall meant you just found a way to get back on.
But I also learned to respect others—equine and human—and to be aware of their space and their circumstances at all times. I learned to lend a hand when one is needed, and to enjoy getting dirty and working hard. I learned to win and lose graciously, and not to take myself too seriously—because horses and life have a way of humbling you.
And, through our spookiest escapades on the trail, I learned to follow my gut, and to know that when you sense danger, you’re usually right.
Price of Memories
I lost my mom to illness on March 23 of last year. As a mother myself, of a 3-year-old, I’m now striving to provide my daughter with the same gifts of time and attention my mom gave me. I hope Sophie loves horses, but if not, we’ll find something else we can do together to create the common ground necessary to foster an unbreakable bond of love and open communication.
To all the horse moms out there, spending time with their horse-crazy children on the trail, in the barn, and in the cab of a truck with the ever-present horse trailer bumping along behind…I salute you.
You’re raising your youngsters right, and giving them the priceless gift of a lifetime of memories to reflect on when you’re gone from this earth.
I know it’s not easy and it’s certainly not cheap, but you can trust me when I say: It’s worth it. n
Jamie Imus Evan lives in western New York with her husband and young daughter. Her mother, Brenda Imus, was a noted equestrian clinician and author of The Gaited Horse Bible and other books. Jamie is the owner of Phoenix Rising Saddles (phoenixrisingsaddles.com). She and her brother, Zachary Imus, created the company’s Web site in honor of their mother and dedicated it to the humane treatment and training of gaited horses.