Saturday, September 10, 2011

Memoirs: A Horse Girl Wins The Race

If my parents read this post, I can just imagine their reactions.  My Dad will be shaking his head thinking "hopeless" and my Mom will probably burst out laughing.  She is the one who will call my Dad over to read this.  Sorry Parents, I guess that I have no shame, because I am going to tell the "Bear Walk Story".


What is the Bear Walk you ask? 

Well, first things first.  Growing up, I was a horse crazy girl.  That has pretty much been established.  I took riding lessons, I begged my parents to take me on trail rides on family vacations, I pretended to be a horse at recess, I read horse books, and I drew horses all the time.  My horse disease was contagious, infecting my little neighbor, my little sister, my "herd" on the playground at school, and non-horsey friends who starting confiding in me that they, too, wanted a horse.  Naturally.  Who didn't?

I had cataloged the name and breed of every horse that I had ever ridden, patted, or met in passing.  Their names were assigned to a roster which I kept in a pocket-sized notebook.  My imaginary barn had four real "pastures", the house-less fields where the telephone and electrical cables passed through our suburban development.  I could tell you which horse lived in each pasture, their age, and training.  Sometimes my Huffy ten-speed played the role of one of my horses, when I took one out for exercise.  Although, a perfectly adequate substitute for covering ground, posting in a bicycle saddle was awkward at best, and my Dad got tired of patching my front tire when I popped it taking the curb too enthusiastically.  Wheeled horses do not take turns on loose ground well, so I bear a scar on my right wrist, hand, and knee from falling off my bike and sliding in gravel.  Coincidentally, I earned another scar on the same wrist from a pony bite and on the same knee from riding too close to a fence.  They are tokens of my dedication.

I always ride horses with a helmet, but, ironically, I gave up riding my bicycle when the "helmet law" was passed.  Luckily, my own two feet were an excellent alternative.  National Velvet, anyone?  I could walk, trot, canter, gallop, and jump.  By high school, I began incorporating lateral work and flying changes.  My Dad warned that I didn't fall over while gliding sideways on family walks and my neighbor heckled me out the window,

"Quit that you Brat!"

She meant it lovingly.

The pinnacle of my faux equine athleticism was jumping a triple bar represented by three bicycles.  I was disappointed when I joined the high school track team and discovered that running hurdles and the high jump required very different form than my scopey technique.  I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Before I go any further, this story is not about my two-legged endeavors.  This memoir is about my four-legged feats.  

My four legs.  

Imitating horses on two feet wasn't enough for me.  I explored their movement using my hands and feet.  I figured out how to walk, trot, and canter with authentic footfall patterns.  I jumped pillows setup in the living room and landed on my hands, cantering away like the real thing.  My parents pleaded with me to stop thundering down the hallway.  My grandmother told me I was too old to be crawling.

"But grandma, I am not crawling.  Watch!"

My Dad was right. 

I was more secretive of my unusual skill as a teen, but still indulged the occasional canter down the hallway.  At least it kept my arms strong.  This came in handy when I fell from a real horse and landed hands first.  That was an unexpected benefit.  When I started learning leg yield and shoulder-in in my dressage lessons, I developed a better understanding of the horse's positioning by learning to do them myself.  Eventually, I could collect my canter, perform series of flying changes, and managed to solve half-pass all with hind legs that were "too long" for a respectable dressage horse.  I had to bend my knees and tuck my hind legs dramatically under my body to keep my balance.  

Odd?  Definitely.  
Enlightening?  Absolutely.

So what about the race?  

Rewind to Field Day in elementary school.  The final event was the "Bear Walk".  The gym teacher explained the rules.  Students lined up at the start and were to race straight ahead, around a cone, and back again.  There were multiple heats to accommodate all the bear-walking youngsters.  The gym teacher warned that we were not allowed to crawl.  We had to walk on our hands and feet, like a lumbering bear.

A gleeful smile spread across my face.  I was giddy with excitement.  This was my race.

The other students never stood a chance and the gym teacher must not have believed his own eyes.  I can still see the perplexed look on his face as I crossed the finish line for the third time in full stride, galloping on my hands and feet as the rest of the kids waddled in my dust.  

I was the undeniable winner in an unorthodox race. 
The Secretariat of the Bear Walk.

A horse girl in her moment of equine-inspired glory.


  1. Brings back lots of childhood memories - I used to do many of the things you describe - thanks!

  2. And I can totally picture you galloping across the finish line!

  3. Kate- Silliness in the name of horse love. I am glad that I am not alone!

    Annette-*laughing* One of the best days of elementary school!

  4. Oh my gosh, I'm not the only one that did that! The flying lead changes were my forte, I rode my bike like a horse also. I'm speechless right now. My Mom and Dad were NOT horse people at all, and never understood the "disease" of which there is no cure. However, they did the best they could to give me the opportunities when they arose. Hoo Ray for the "bear run"! (gallop)

  5. Mary- Lead changes are so fun! Most people call it "skipping", but they are mistaken. I liked to kick my new leading leg up really high. Look how expressive I am! I cannot imagine what parents must thing about these things.

  6. At first I was wincing thinking about your poor knees banging into the ground- until I understood you were on your toes. Then I marveled at your strength and flexibility. I could never do that, I tried.

  7. smazourek- *laughing* Maybe I will come back as a horse in another lifetime, then I could put it to good use.

  8. I am reading my childhood as written by you. :)

    1. Glad I wasn't the only one running around like that!


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