Saturday I was thrilled to have an old friend visit with her husband and daughter. Oldita and I were long-time co-workers for many years. Though we were in very different phases of our lives and parts of the company, there was always an affinity beyond our overly active curly hair. We kept in touch through social media and I followed her wedding and the eventual birth of Ella. When she sent me a message last week and said Ella was in love with horses and would it be possible for her to visit me, I was honored. Introducing a little girl to my favorite magnificent animal has always be a thrill for me; seeing accomplished equestrians many years later in those same little girls is just icing on the cake. It is obvious very early on whether there is a bond and if it doesn’t work out, no harm done. Horses and even ponies are intimidating creatures to many adults so it makes sense there are also some smaller folks who just don’t find them attractive.
Oldita, Michael and Ella somehow came in under the radar and I was busy in my office when I heard voices on the front walk. Alice jumped up from under my feet and sounded the alarm. It suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea what the dogs’ reaction to a toddler would be. (Is three even still considered a toddler? It’s been years…) I needn’t have worried. As I was explaining my concerns to Oldita, Ella walked quietly up to the front door, peered through the screen and introduced herself to Alice and Dahlia. When we went through the door it wasn’t Ella they were interested in but the adults. We had a cold drink, toured the property, checked on the bees and packed up for the barn. I had barely parked when Ella spotted the horses. Unlike most kids, there was no squealing for joy. Ella speaks like a Rhodes Scholar and though she was obviously excited, she was busy telling us which horse she would like to ride. We wandered up to the donkey/pony paddock.
Her chosen mount was a tiny beast named Dragon. First, she introduced herself to the mama and baby donkey, then set her sights on Dragon and tried to figure out how she could climb on board. We carefully lead him out to the barnyard. I explained to Ella that the flies sometimes make horses stomp their feet and we had to be careful not to get our toes crushed. She looked solemnly at me with large round eyes.
I couldn’t find a tiny enough saddle so we strapped on a helmet and plopped Ella up on Dragon, bareback. He flinched and swished at flies but was happy to stand on the lawn eating. The moment of truth was here. Ella would either want OFF immediately or Oldita and Michael were in for many years of an expensive hobby. I peered into her face and the expression was pure zen. Not giggly, smiling, just total calm and happiness.
Oh Dad, you are in so much trouble now. Look at that child’s perfect seat and position! We played with the goat and chickens and wandered up the hill to visit my two mares. Duetz, being old and cranky, gave a most annoying grunt when we tried to put Ella up on her back. It was off-putting but not a game changer for the newly minted equestrian. Night was much happier to let her slide around on her broad warm back. It started to sprinkle and Ella suggested, didn’t insist or wine or even demand, that we go back to my house. I made some sandwiches and while we ate Ella made wooden bead necklaces for us all. I’d remembered that a few of the best toys from Lex and Hanni’s childhood were in my office and these were carefully returned to the box when Ella left. Except for the beads and strings. I wanted her to have something more than her memory and pictures of our visit and why not pass along good toys. Michael started to pack up and Oldita went to find Ella. I heard a terrible ruckus from my office. I took no notice, figuring all three-year olds have their stimulation limit and perhaps it was nearing nap time. Ella burst into the room crying and said, “I just want to stay with Martha!” I glanced at Oldita, “Well this is a first!” she offered.