Back when I thought I could grow up to be anything I wanted, I wanted to be Miss America whose talent was horseback riding. No matter that I’d never been on a horse, nor considered the logistics of the performance on the Atlantic City Conventional Hall stage. The morning ride at Camp Eljabar, in the summer of ’69, was the first step toward my dream, which came to a crashing halt when I came crashing to the ground only a few minutes into the trail-riding. The horse had found a wasps’ nest and then the wasps found me. An hour later, my ankle and wrist were wrapped in ACE bandages, and just about every body surface was marked with welts.
That’s the end of that story. Because contrary to that old adage, I did not get back on any horse. And as the years passed, I had little-to-no opportunity to hobnob with those of the hoofed persuasion. Until a few weeks ago when I was assigned to write a feature about a horse farm.
The anticipation was unnerving. And I considered what early experiences may have shifted others’ gears. I conducted an informal survey and found the number-one adult fear with childhood roots has to do with Michael Meyers of the “Halloween” movies. Teeth-baring neighbors’ dogs came in second. So they don’t go trick-or-treating with their kids even when it’s still daylight, or they’ve chosen to share their homes with cats. Big deal. Mine may have kept me from wearing a crown.
The day before the interview, I was thumbing through a brochure for a camp-and-conference center I’d picked up, and my eyes settled on page 44: “Soul Journey with Horses.” I couldn’t read fast enough. Phrases like “teaching us authenticity…positive role in our evolution…our survival.” This October weekend workshop culminated on my birthday! This was meant to be! There are no accidents!
So I (excuse the pun) bucked up and headed to Hunterdon. During the hour I spent in the barn while the photographer did his best to get good shots of the horses (they like to look at themselves in mirrors), I broke out in hives. Not from anxiety…from allergies! I flashbacked to the time in high school when my parents had to pick me up an hour into a hayride because I was having a mild asthma attack.
So when I emerged from the stables, I revised my earlier assertion: This was never meant to be; I’m allergic. I was thrown from a horse (before I’d started sneezing); there are accidents. I had one.
End of story.