“Divorce isn’t easy on anyone, but when you’re an eleven-year-old girl it’s pretty awful.” Jessica tells the story of Honeycomb, a lesson pony who made her smile when nothing else could.
Divorce isn’t easy on anyone, but when you’re an eleven-year-old girl it’s pretty awful. Back in the ‘80s, divorce was uncommon, so when my parents sat me down in the rec room during Punky Brewster to share the news, it felt as if the world was ending.
I was already an awkward kid, endlessly saying and doing dorky things at exactly the wrong time. Now, instead of something cool like having the most jelly bracelets or the newest oily sticker, I was the first in my grade with parents engaged in their own War of the Roses.
It didn’t help that I sometimes burst into tears when teachers called on me, or wandered off to a corner during snack time to cry into my apple juice. Despite having a few loyal friends at school, I felt totally alone and unlovable.
All that changed after school when my mom delivered me to the barn where I took riding lessons. Latching the yard’s gate behind me, my step would grow light as I entered a world of horsey sounds and earthy scents.
I loved all the horses at my riding school, but Honeycomb was my best friend. She was a fiery-coated chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail whose spunk made her one of the more challenging school horses. That I was one of a handful of girls who rode her made me feel special, capable and cool. Secretly, I thought I was her favorite, too.
Ears forward and muzzle outstretched, Honey always extended a warm, nickering welcome. As I groomed her, I’d tell her about my day, how I felt about what was happening at home, push my face into her neck and cry.
The instant I set my feet in the stirrups, I felt invincible and free. If, for a moment, sadness fluttered at the backs of my eyelids and tightened my throat, all I had to do to chase it away was twine my fingers in Honey’s mane. Recognizing that I was only happy when with horses and my special friend Honeycomb, my mom and riding instructor conspired to make sure I spent a lot of time at the barn.
A year later, my mom surprised me on Christmas morning with the best gift ever — Honeycomb. My kind, noble pony carried me through the remainder of my parents’ divorce, switching schools, tough visits with my father, high school angst, college, getting married, and all the other ups, downs and sideways life throws.
Honeycomb gave me so many gifts — confidence, unconditional love, heart-pounding, hoof-thundering rides through Maryland’s woods and meadows… but perhaps the greatest was the simple power of time spent with a horse.
Long after Honey’s passing, the barn remains the place I head to on happy days, sad days and everything in between. The alchemy of smell, sight, touch and memory works its magic, and cares fall away. It’s just me, my horse, and the moment.
Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines and the lessons horses have taught us — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!