I've been running a bit lately. Trying to get my stride back because it's such a good balance to my yoga (and my donut habit, obvs). I run by the harbour with friends after work, and I run Centennial Park - it's a spectacular pocket of green and, at this time of year, setting golden light. The best part about Centennial though, is watching the horses. The stables are nearby, and I'm always able to catch a glimpse of a couple in training on the jumps, or making their way around the track. Horses are my spirit animal, if you're into that kind of thing. I have always been in awe of their grace and strength - they are serene and wholly majestic in my mind. My parents named me Meg Eowyn, after Eowyn of Rohan from Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. She is a horse warrior and one hell of an amazing namesake. I was about 11 when we moved to the Adelaide HIlls and by far the best thing about it, the thing I loved most, was it meant I could go horse riding EVERY WEEK. All the girls in my class were 'horsey-girls' and read Saddle Club books and wore workman boots and my mother, being the generous and supportive dame she is, signed me up.
My first horse was called Fergus, and he was small, old, grey and thoroughly cheeky. Towards the end of my lessons he'd always try and duck under the fence of the arena to get a drink if I didn't hold him tight enough. He loved a bit of cross-country and would sometimes open out to a canter, though never a gallop. He was sweet, all a bit bouncy and a lovely pony to learn on. After a year or so, I was a bit taller and more experienced, so I moved on to Rell. He was nothing like Fergus. Rell was a tall, auburn-gold dreamboat of a horse. He glistened in the sun and had about the finest gift for dressage I'd ever known. He was so graceful and sure of himself, all legs and a dark mane and tail that I spent HOURS brushing and grooming. He was a climb to get up to, but a gentleman really. He never bolted, always stopped calmly when I tugged on the reins and was wholly responsible for any show-jumping ribbons I won in the years I rode him.
When I was about 13, the couple that adjisted all the horses at my riding school decided to convert one of the old barns in the back paddock for accommodation. I think they had high-priced city couples in mind, but we convinced them to let us use it for a camp one week. About six of the girls I rode with, our favourite instructor Robyn and her beautiful Border Collie Ben spent a hell of a time there waking early, riding for hours, eating thick-cut sandwiches, swimming in the dam with the horses and building a new cross country course. We ate buckets and buckets of apples (us girls, not the horses) and slept like the dead, exhausted from all the doing. By the end of the week we were taking turns trying to ride the course we had put together which was rough and terrifying and left us in hysterics with a few soft falls. When my mother came to get me I was covered in blackberry bush scratches and hadn't brushed my hair in days, but was about the happiest she had ever seen me.
My friend has a theory that young women who ride horses are capable and daring. She thinks it gives them a can-do attitude. I like the idea, myself. It was certainly the most amazing part of my childhood. I often romanticise the idea of moving home and buying an old house in the Hills with enough room for a dog, a veggie garden, some chooks and of course a pony.