The majesty and grace of a horse causes even the most nonchalant observer to briefly pause. Some people, understandably, are intimidated by the sheer power and size of a horse, others are drawn to their beauty along with their gentle nature and ability to connect with humans. Whatever the reason, people want to know more about the horse, and in turn this can create forever friendships.
My experiences driving carriages drove this point home, no pun intended. The best “advertising” for a ride was the hooked up carriage and horse. People wanted to talk with us about the horse and about the rides. The horse drew the customer over visually then won them over with their gentle and willing natures.
We experience something similar when riding on Pismo Beach. People stop and watch us go by taking pictures as we pass. Often times they will then approach and ask questions, ask for insights, etc., and before you know it, you’ve made a friend.
Those of us who know horses find camaraderie among our fellow horse enthusiasts. How many of us can point to a time (or times) when our horse was the reason for a lasting human friendship?
Here’s the beginning of a story where a horse led me to a forever friendship.
Horse Carriage Driving Leads to a Forever Friendship
I discovered there was something extra-special about Indy when I took her, her mother and brother for a carriage ride one summer night at Farmer’s Market. Little did I know that one carriage ride would give me a special friend forever.
Indy rode up with me and was so very happy and friendly, especially for a 13-year-old girl. As we rode along it became apparent that Indy had a mental disability because as she expressed herself her thoughts were rather jumbled. I asked Indy if she would like to try driving Shasta. “Yes, please!” she exclaimed gleefully, as I handed the lines over to her.
She was an instinctive driver displaying very good motor coordination and could anticipate how Shasta might move, correcting him without much guidance from me. Indy handled driving Shasta so well I let her continue being the one in charge down busy Pacific street.
“Look at me!” Indy would turn around and exclaim to her mother and brother, “I’m driving Shasta all by myself!” Her mother was equally excited.
We returned back to Broad and Higuera Streets. Indy jumped down and immediately asked for my name and phone number. She wanted to take riding lessons from me. I explained that I didn’t have a horse she could ride but would love to give her lessons.
The Pre-Arranged Friends and Family Ride
Soon after, I received a voice message on my home answering machine; it was Indy requesting a special ride for her family and friends. I was out of town when she tried to make these arrangements and unable to work into her plans.
Ever the arranger, the next time there was an opportunity to share us with her family she called the carriage owner directly. It was set. Indy’s grandparents were visiting and the whole family joined her for this special ride on a Farmer’s Market night.
I was introduced to her grandfather, who said, “Indy always talks about you. She has been planning this ride for a few months!”
Indy took her favorite spot right next to me in the driver’s seat. I handed the lines over to her so she could drive Shasta. She drove the whole ride while I talked with her family. Everyone enjoyed being together and supporting Indy and her endeavors.
We returned to our regular spot and immediately Indy jumped down and said, “Sharon I have a surprise for you. Close your eyes, put your hands together and hold them out.” I did just as she asked. Soon I felt many coins fall into my cupped hands.
“Oh Indy!” I exclaimed, “This is your savings! I can’t take this from you!”
“Oh, yes,” she replied, “you have to take it. It’s my special gift to you because you are so nice to me!”
Indy’s Forever Friendship
After the special ride night, Indy and I shared a few other outings that did not involve driving the carriages. We went to the movies, I gave her a few riding lessons when I had a horse to work with, she even came to church with me. Once she took care of my dog for a week while I was on a business trip. Through all of this interaction, her parents became my friends too.
Eventually Indy started attending a special school in Lake County and visited the SLO area about every other weekend. She invited me to her birthday party, where I met several of her dear friends, like her piano teacher, a former riding instructor, and a dear lady who lived across the street from her. I realized that Indy enjoys collecting special friends and her biggest joy was sharing and growing her collection. She has a lot of love to give. May we all be more like her.
Once you have been collected into Indy’s favorite circle of friends she simply won’t let you go. Today she is 40 something and still calls me about twice a year to keep in touch. She always shares how she is still pursuing driving carriages in some manner. To think that this forever friendship was sparked by a normal “carriage ride” in SLO, where she drove Shasta on a Farmer’s Market evening as a 13-year-old girl.
This is an excerpt from a soon to be published ebook: Carriage Capers – Magic Moments Leave Marks on our Hearts. Stories of a Horse Carriage Driver in San Luis Obispo County by Sharon J. Jantzen