They arranged to meet in a pasture, near a local tack and saddlery shop, where other riders often congregated on Saturday mornings. He quickly recognized the woman from her photo on the online dating website. With a wave she approached on a handsome appaloosa with an easy trot. Shaking her gloved hand, he laughed nervously and she commented on the weather. She asked about his dark chestnut thoroughbred and he explained how Victor had been a loyal friend for many, many years. He smiled as she reached over and stroked the grey hairs on Victor’s cheek, prompting him to nuzzle her hand.
Walking over the dewy grass toward the nearby woods he asked her about her first horse. The breeze sent autumn leaves sailing to the ground all around them as she began her story. In the woods, the wide trail gradually narrowed and he let her walk ahead. As the conversation continued, he noticed that a few honey blonde strands of her hair had escaped from beneath her riding helmet, curling over the back of her red gilet. They both chuckled when Victor got a bit too close to the appaloosa’s (Anne’s) tail and she answered with a quick, rearward kick. Victor then prudently decided to give Anne her personal space.
Later, as they crossed a creek both horses stepped gingerly as the cool water spilled over their hooves. During the past two hours she’d shared stories about her childhood on a horse farm. He found himself nodding when she confided her love of the sweet smell of hay that overwhelmed her every time she dropped a flake into a horse’s hay rack. The trail circled around through the woods and the entranceway to the field suddenly reappeared. They simultaneously spotted an old stump in the field and began to race toward it. Victor performed valiantly, but the light-footed appaloosa finally took the contest. Victor received a gentle, conciliatory pat on his mane.
The morning had given way to the afternoon. Leaning down to adjust a stirrup iron, he caught her watching him and she quickly looked away. As the horses moved along she took a breath, closing her eyes, then exhaled. A smile came to his lips as he realized that he’d discovered someone who treasured the peaceful feeling of riding out in the open air as much as he did. They stopped at the pasture gate and exchanged an anxious smile. Victor tossed his head in aggravation as his owner nervously fiddled with the reins. Eventually, he took a breath, but was cut short.
“You know,” she piped up, “This beautiful place deserves another go ’round. Shall we say same time next Saturday?”
He hesitated, staring at her in surprise. Finally, she received his reply, “Next Saturday sounds just perfect.”