When we were little girls, my best friend Christine and I were horse crazy. We both collected model horses - Breyer horses were our favorites, and played with them for hours.
We read horse books; Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, C.W. Anderson's wonderfully illustrated Billy & Blaze series, and every book written about Alec and his horse 'the Black' in The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley.
We spent school days playing 'horse' on the playground with our friends, and summers riding our imaginary horses in Christine's yard. Her front yard had a gravestone in the middle of the lawn, but no one was actually buried there. It was perfect for jumping our imaginary horses over.
Christine lived near the bluffs of the beach and just the impression of a horse's hoof in the dirt made us sigh with longing. Occasionally, we'd strike gold and see an actual horse and it's rider on the beach. We'd shyly approach and ask to pet their horse - only to then boldly ask, "Can I ride your horse?" The answer was always no.
Even though I knew we could never afford it, I was constantly asking my mom for a horse. My mom always gave me the same answer; she might figure out a way to save enough money to buy one, but the cost of keeping one was another matter.
Horses aren't for the coupon clipper budget. If we could have afforded it, we could buy four horses with the money it would cost to care for just one. Boarding, feed, tack, and farrier costs are just the beginning. For such big animals, horses are unbelievably fragile. Known for hoof, leg and gastric problems (colic or boredom issues such as cribbing), one visit from the vet could quickly add up to thousands of dollars.
Then Christine's mom, Marilynn, had a stroke of brilliance. She decided to lease a horse for Christine. Not just for cars, a lease is a horse-lover's dream: all of the fun with a fraction of the cost. I can still remember the car ride with them out to the stables to meet the owner and see the horse. The mare's name was Trillium, after a pretty white flower that was similar to the white star on her forehead. Trillium was a seal brown, so dark she was almost black. I was absolutely in love.
The car ride home was when the deal only got sweeter. Marilynn offered to let me ride Trillium as well. Christine and I divvied up the week: I got riding privileges every Tuesday and Thursday after school by myself, and we shared Saturdays. I could scarcely believe my luck.
This period of time in my life contains some of my sweetest memories. I will always be grateful to Christine for her friendship and her mom Marilynn for her love and generosity.