Pictured: Diane Crump, First Female Jockey to Ride in the Kentucky Derby, 1970.
Why write about women and horses? Both are on my mind a lot lately, for a variety of reasons. And, given that Spring has FINALLY come to Wisconsin, I thought it appropriate to keep the tone of this month’s blog entry ”springlike:” light, airy, and fun. So–here goes my attempt at that, and I’ll begin with a bit of the inspiration for the horses theme.
1. I’m reading a book right now called Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley. It’s thoroughly enjoyable. I have learned more about riding a horse in the first 260 pages than I ever thought possible. Both the book and the industry are engaging, entertaining, and complex. I recommend it as a summer read!
2. I have a good friend who, every year on Mother’s Day, gathers up the mothers she knows and heads out for a day at the Arlington Racetrack, just outside Chicago. I wasn’t able to go this past year, but one of these Mother’s Days, I will.
3. When I see my vision of my future, I am running a spiritual retreat center for women. I see horses on the property. Hmmmm. That’s strange to me, given that I’ve only been on a horse a few times in my life. Somehow, though, the presence of horses at a spritual retreat center seems appropo. I feel drawn to their seeming gentleness, strength, and wisdom, all of which play a big part in what being “spiritual” means to me.
4. The Kentucky Derby was this past week-end, and I am always drawn to the romantic notion of that race. I know that, like anything, the Derby (and horse racing in general) has its dark underbelly but, alas, it always makes me think of swaying white skirts, mint juleps, binoculars, and springtime. Over-idealized version of the event, I know. But it speaks to me.
5.Last night, as my stylist was coiffing my locks, I mentioned to her that I was reading this great book about horses (see Horse Heaven reference above). Turns out, she was raised on a farm, with a lot of horses! She went on to tell me that her grandfather’s claim to fame was that he was bitten by Secretariat! I found that ironic, given all of the horsiness in my life these days.
SO–I got to thinking about how women’s lives are parallel to horses’ lives in a variety of ways. One thing that I notice about women’s lives is how much they are like the Kentucky Derby, or any major horse race for that matter. Just like in the Derby, life is full of last-minute surprises, tight turns, and unexpected outcomes. No matter how much we train, train, train to be our very best, sometimes we just cannot control when and whether we will cross the finish line by…a neck, or a length, or even at all. In the event that is our life, we sometimes fall down, we sometimes get scratched, we sometimes get bitten. Like race horses, we are often exhausted, in need of a massage, and wanting nothing more than a little tender loving kindness from a groomer. We are willing to step up to the starting gate, push it harder when we have to to get ahead, and pull back cautiously when we sense imminent danger. As women, our instincts, like a fine-tuned race horse, are GOOD.
Just like race horses, too, there are riders in our saddles that “click with us” and riders that “just don’t flow with our gallop,” ultimately inhibiting our movement forward. In our lives as women, there are other fillies and mares, and there are colts and stallions. Throw in some yearlings and a foal or two and you’ve got a whole stable of characters that play various roles in the life of a horse, that make various demands on her life in one way, shape or form. So it goes with women humans, too.
Like horses, women come in such a variety of personalities, with such a variation in preferences, and such a plethora of different needs and wants. Some of us are known as nuzzlers and lovers, while others are thought to be independent and aggressive. Some of us prefer to eat hay and graze in the pasture, while others find the thrill of the race exotic and exciting. Some of us are born performers, while others of us are content to remain in the paddock. The variety of our species, like the horse, is so rich and colorful!
Like race horses, we have spectators in our lives, too. We have those who will bet on us and those who won’t. We have those who believe in us and those who don’t. We have those who see promise in us and those who don’t. There are those that will cheer for us and those that will stop at nothing to see us fail. There are those who love us and those who don’t.
Like race horses, we are often judged by where we come from: are we from “good” roots or “bad” ones? Are we of a “good” line or a “bad” one? Are we from the right parentage and place? It seems strange to think in these terms, but it’s true to a large degree. Like horses, too, however, we can rise above the judgements of others and claim the race as our own if we want to, regardless of our heritage–it just takes training, practice, patience, and acceptance.
Like horses, women are strong, solid, and steely. Like horses, women are graceful, wise, and smart. Like horses, women are intuitive, playful, and kind. We are so like horses.
If I was a horse, I think my name would be Laughter’s Daughter. What would your horse name be?