The Riding School: My best Christmas ever

This week the Riding Instructor recounts the story of her own best Christmas ever. She was 14, and she was about to become the proud owner of her very first horse.

Photo: HN

From the Riding Instructor:

So as the holidays approach and I consult with parent after parent about what wonderful piece of equine equipment Santa should bring their child (a mystery to me: why do they all want to buy polo wraps?), I am reminded of the year I got the best Christmas present ever.

I was fourteen; I’d be riding since I was seven and had progressed from once a week lesson student to full-on horse nut.  I’d spent the summer as the junior-est of the junior counselors at our barn summer camp for no pay other than the chance to be at the barn all day.  I technically had my own horse, an ancient school horse the crafty barn owner had given to me, but, lovely as the old guy was, he wasn’t up to much more than a hack around the ring.  And I was ready for more.  I wanted to show.  I knew I was always going to be on a budget, that I was going to have work hard and save up for every one day of competitive glory, but, if anything, that made me more determined.

But I didn’t have a horse.  I’d been lucky enough to lease one that fall, a children’s hunter belonging to another student while he was on the market for sale, but that lease had ended in November.  I had no plan to further my ambitions, no idea where I was going to find something to ride that was appropriate for the show ring.

Until Christmas morning.  It started out a fairly standard and uneventful day; the usual china teacups from distant aunts and a few bits and pieces of tack I’d picked out with my mother at the local tack store’s Christmas Eve event.  I’d opened most of what I had – except for a large, light box I’d picked up and shaken more than once, mystified about what it could contain.

I opened it to find… another box.  And then another one, and another one.  In my memory, the boxes are infinite, but there were probably only five or so.  At the heart of the last, smallest box, an envelope.  In the envelope, a set of Jockey Club registration papers.  “Bold and Fleet?”  The name meant nothing to me.  My parents answered my unspoken question by explaining that this was the registered name of the horse I’d leased that fall.  I was over the moon.  My dreams actually had come true.

In the years that followed, that perfect delight of that Christmas morning would be tempered somewhat (when horse shopping on a budget, you can choose plain and reliable or fancy, unsound, and unreliable.  Take a guess on which my mystery horse proved to be.)  But I don’t think I have ever had a better Christmas… not just because I got a horse, but because it was so unexpected, such a surprise, such a gift.  My parents had taken so much care to make it memorable and wonderful.  I am so grateful to them for that moment.

So I hope all of you have equally wonderful holidays this year.  And even if it’s not a pony, but a set of polo wraps under the tree, remember that it was given with love and thought to making your horsey dreams come true, even if  just a little bit.

Go Riding.

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