Growing up I had a lot of horses. There was Acorn, Tammy Bell, Chestnut, Lightning… And I don’t remember the other names. Eventually though, all of the horses faded into the recesses of my imagination except for Chestnut and Lightning. I took them everywhere with me and rode them extensively.
In fact, the horses were so well trained (and fast) that they ran alongside the road while I traveled somewhere and that way we didn’t have to worry about horse trailers. Plus, if I got tired of riding in the car, I’d simply get on Lightning and we’d have fun jumping over guard rails and obstacles while keeping up.
The horses were a lot of fun and from time to time I would tell other people about them while I was trotting around outside. As I got older people probably thought I was a bit strange when I described Lightning’s brilliant white coat and beautiful brown star, but that didn’t bother me. My imagination made life so much more amazing and I wasn’t going to let other people’s opinions change that… When I was younger I sometimes offered to let people ride the horses, but as time went on and no one took me up on the offer, I eventually stopped.
When I was eighteen I went to South America and stayed with my sister, brother-in-law, and four nieces and nephews for two months. Where we lived it was beautiful, bare, and very difficult to breath. My main task during my visit was to be the teacher to my two nieces.
When school wasn’t in session we enjoyed a lot of hanging out time. There weren’t many toys around other than a few dolls and so we used our imaginations and anything we could find lying around. One day while we were walking down the dusty streets, keeping a lookout for cowboys recklessly riding horses (because where we lived was the equivalent to the “wild west” of our olden days, complete with gold mines) I got an idea.
These imaginative nieces of mine were clambering for a story, so I decided to tell them about Chestnut and Lightning. After all, one of them often rode a made-up horses of her own, and if I told them about my horses, then I’d be able to join her and we’d go trotting down the road.
To my delight, they were both thrilled to find out that their auntie rode horses. Then there was a plot twist. My oldest niece, who was seven, wanted to ride Chestnut because she didn’t have a horse like her sister did. I happily complied and together we slowly trotted down the street. (Slowly because I was still adjusting to living at 12,500 feet and anything more than a walk made me feel like I was going to black out.)
It wasn’t long until my niece was asking if she could keep Chestnut for good. I know it probably sounds silly to be attached to a figment of my imagination, but it really was a hard decision to give Chestnut away. By that time I’d had the horse for over a decade and had spent many happy hours with her. In reality though, I still had Lightning (who had always been my favorite), and it was my niece asking for the horse, so in the end I joyously gave her Chestnut. There were some stipulations: She wasn’t allowed to sell, give away, or get rid of the horse, and she wasn’t allowed to have it die. (Hey! There are some benefits to imaginative gifts.)
My sister’s family moved back to the states at the end of my two months with them in Peru, and although they lived several states away from us, we saw them much more than during the pervious eight years.
To begin with, nearly every time we went to see them my nieces would excitedly ask for me to ride the horses with them. I’m not sure there’s anything that could have made my auntie heart happier. The niece I’d given Chestnut to even wrote me sometimes, giving me updates about how the horse was doing and what was going on in her life. And that’s when I knew that giving Chestnut away had been an amazingly good decision.
Last week I was visiting my sister and her family again, and Chestnut’s owner informed me that it had been a while since we’d ridden our horses together and we really should. I heartily agreed, all the while marveling over how it’s been six and a half years and my little niece has grown up quite a bit and she still rides Chestnut just like I did when I was her age.
The last full day of my visit we mounted our horses and began trotting down a dirt lane. Their little siblings wanted to join us and I soon was riding double with my three-year-old niece clinging to my back. During that moment I couldn’t help but smile, thrilled to pieces at the fact that my imagination and joy had transcended generations.
Who knows? Maybe someday my own kids will ride Lightning and (borrowed) Chestnut. Because after all, imagined horses are the best because they never have to die.
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(Today I got caught up with answering all the comments on Noveltea, so, if you left a comment, it should have an answer now.)