Friday, July 22, 2011

There are horsemen and then there are horsemen

Michael on Atlas—photo from
And Michael Etherly is a serious horseman. He's an incredible rider, a committed athlete, and a true artist. He rides with the kind of poise that most of you humans can only dream about.

Oh, fine, I confess—this is mostly FarmWife talking. She told me to say these things, and I think it's just because Michael Etherly was her Pony Club trainer when she was 14 years old. She still hasn't gotten over the thrill of riding with such a classy guy. He had charisma, as she tells it, and he was a good teacher. He was there the day she fell over a cross country fence, hurt herself and her horse, and lost her confidence, and he saw her slide from ambitious young eventer to nervous nellie. (She didn't really get her groove back until she met me, Fenway Bartholomule, and in fact I helped her learn to jump again. That's a story for another day.)

FarmWife loves me—her trail mule—and she loves the gravelly, muddy byways of scenic Wickersham, but there are times when she wishes we could be whisked away to Northern California, don some white breeches*, and learn to ride like Mike. She sometimes wonders where her riding career would be today if she had stayed focused on dressage and eventing back in the 90s. She wonders what would have happened to her life if she'd gone to a college with an equestrian program, or if she'd never sold her homebred Swedish Warmblood colt (who, it turns out, is a gorgeous athlete with a glitchy stifle and a challenging attitude), or if she'd saved every dollar she ever earned and poured them into lessons and clinics and schooling shows.

She'd probably be a better rider, but she probably wouldn't be happier. She'd find something else to pine for—something different, and more laid back. Something like a nice little mule and a quiet trail.


*Her, not me—this butt of mine wouldn't fly in stretchy pants.

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