Maybe the Horse Fairies Took Your Baby

By Esther C. Baird
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript

Boxford Topsfield Middleton —
It all began in Costa Rica.  We were there two summers ago on a family vacation and spent one day with a guide navigating waterways by boat, and jungle paths by foot, in order to visit a secluded beach.  Apparently though, there was a short cut to the beach, because that afternoon a man emerged from the dense foliage with a large horse tied to a rope.  It had no saddle, no blanket, no reins.  But the man looked at our two girls, then ages five and three, and communicated that for a few dollars he’d give them a ride. 
I figured this was a clear ‘no’.  Neither daughter had any experience with horses and our older daughter was nervous around anything large and alive.  It was one of the reasons we had gotten Blue Ears who, at the time of the trip, was only a puppy but held the promise of being gigantic.
So it was a total surprise when our eldest sat up and said, “I’ll ride.”  The man nodded, lifted her onto the bare back of the horse, and led her off down the beach. 
Both my husband and I saw it immediately.  She is not a laid back child.  She is the firstborn of two Type A parents — you do the math.   But sitting on that horse, her entire demeanor changed.  She looked relaxed, peaceful, confident.  She’d never even touched a horse before and there she was riding one in a strange country led by a strange man.  Who had taken our daughter?? 
The horse fairies had, and, I could see that we were in deep, deep, trouble. 
We held off for over a year.  I kept hoping our daughter would find that same sense of peace and confidence say . . . painting watercolors or you know, weaving; some hobby with a few less dollar signs attached to it.
But no.  And living in Boxford it’s not exactly easy to avoid horses.   Every time she saw one she’d ask, “When can I ride a horse again?”
So we finally signed her up for lessons at Gaston Farms.  I can take horses or leave them.  And by ‘take’ I mean I don’t mind their general existence.  But our daughter loved the whole process — getting the horse ready (“It’s called tacking up, Mommy”), learning how to ride, and cleaning the horse when done.  After each lesson she beamed, “Can I have my own horse?”
Uh, no.
But she could keep taking lessons.  It just seemed to work for her.
And then a few weeks ago my husband and I were out of town and my mother-in-law was staying with the girls.  My mother-in-law loves horses so I scheduled my daughter’s lesson while she was here.
That evening, many states away, as I was getting ready to go out to dinner, I got the text:  “Took a fall.  Was thrown when horse spooked.  Sore but fine.” 
A million things went through my mind as I quickly called home.  But most of all, I found myself saying, after I had ascertained that our daughter was really, truly ok, “I hope she got back on.”
What was I doing!?  This was my easy out!   She had been thrown off the horse, who could blame her for never riding again?  But oh, the irony.  Her fall ensured that I couldn’t let her quit. If I had to fly home that night and stick her on a horse myself, I would.  Forget watercolors or weaving, my daughter rode horses.  Period.
My mother-in-law confirmed that she had gotten back on and was now a member of the ‘Eat Dirt Club’ at the farm.  She’d been nervous but she’d done it, and with a little Advil and rest she’d be good to go for her next lesson.
I was so proud of her and so stuck with horses. The horse fairies had won.