Women have often found, at one age or another, they have a thing for horses. There are many explanations for this from suggestions riding a horse rubs us sensually (not in my experience) to the control of the beast is allegorical to the control of the man who we all know will never be controlled-- at least not the kind we often secretly covet.
I admit it-- horses are one of my fantasies. I put their thought aside for most of my adult years, but the dream of them and those who ride them returned with a vengeance in my senior years. They are a fantasy unlikely to be fulfilled in a physical sense, but they are satisfying to my imagination even if that is all they ever are.
As a girl having a horse was impossible as my father was allergic to them. He did give it a try once, having a horse on our farm. Even bringing the clothing into the house after our being with the horse soon made him sick, and the horse had to go.
Before the horse was sent away, I remember saddling him and taking him for a ride to the back of our property. I got a little nervous part way back and turned him around which was great with him, and he took off at a run. I pulled hard on the reins which stopped him as he was actually an obedient horse. Unfortunately I didn't stop as quickly and went right on over his head-- with no injuries except to my pride.
As a young married woman, my family and I took a trail ride back into the tall pines near Camp Sherman, Oregon. It was lovely, a dirt road and nothing but peace; until we turned toward the barns and the green horse I was on got in a tiff with another horse, did a little kicking, and took off at a gallop for the barns.
I recalled my earlier experience of going over a horse's head and knew the highway ahead was not where I wanted that to happen; so I just slid off the side of the horse to the ground, rolling (perfectly I might add) and avoiding any serious injury.
The dream of horses didn't end; and there were a few more trail rides; but for a lot of years, I put aside the idea of a horse of my own until a few years ago when I began to think what an ideal life would be like for me and realized it had a horse in it.
The current farm I am on does not have the right places for riding, has too many animals now, nor is the wet soil the best for horses; but in the back of my mind is that someday thinking-- even though I am almost 63 and know it's probably not wise someday thinking.
Thinking I should learn more about them, I have collected a lot of books on horse care, horsemanship and just the enjoyment of horses. One of my favorites in the latter category is Of Women and Horses. GaWaNi Pony Boy has put together a series of essays by various horsewomen on what horses have meant to their lives and art. The book is full of beautiful photographs, paintings of horses and the women of all ages who love them.
One of the passages in the book by Sarah Lynn Richards might explain the appeal of horses to so many women:
"As human beings, we, too, must make our choices, build our fences and remain safe or forsake safety for the riskier and more fulfilling life without them."
"Does this resemble in anyway the modern woman's struggle to exist? In her quest for safety, has she accepted the restrictions offered by her society? Don't bite, don't kick, eat this, drink this, look like this, walk like this, talk like this. Perfection equals protection? Has she internalized these complex familial and cultural standards and made them her own? If this is so, she has (unconsciously) struck a bargain. She will occupy only the space that is prescribed, she will take up less space than her natural or whole self would, but she will be safe. It is a trade-off, and may seem like a fair one, if choices are few. It is, however, the very state of this safety that prevents wholeness and growth for the individual."
Horses challenge safety. They are a risk. They offer something along with that risk-- as will most challenges we choose to face.