As any good little sister does, I tagged along when my sister decided she wanted to take horseback riding lessons. Because my family moved frequently when my dad had new orders to go here or there, and because the Army was a dependable, good job but not a high-paying job, we always leased horses by the month. Weekly lessons were only satisfying for about a year; once my sister and I got bit by the horse bug, we wanted to be at the barn every afternoon. Quickly, my mother's Catholic school teacher salary all flowed into horses.
In Savannah, Georgia, we had a wild-haired riding instructor who helped keep us on our toes, and on our horses. Amy guided us through drills and over fences, we went in endless circles, changed directions, half-halted to get our horse's attention, warmed them up and cooled them down. We happily did anything she told us to do--we were high, in both senses of the word, up on our horse's backs, so excited to move along with our beautiful creatures.
We were both good riders, but I was the more obedient child. And, since we went to Catholic school and they never taught anything but the truth, I was sure that that meant I was the better girl. And, because all things were black and white when I was a child, and Catholic school sure didn't encourage much discussion on the inevitable grays in life, I was sure that meant that I would get more in this life. And the next, for that matter. My sister, on the other hand, was a bit of a troublemaker. She once did a cartwheel in the back of the classroom! She was cheeky--a word I learned when she read in mass one day with "a sassy tone of voice." I would never do that!
So it came as a bit of a surprise when my parents wanted to buy her a horse.
Of course, as there always was and always is and always will be, there's more to the story. Our riding instructor, Amy, owned Late Summer, an old (I mean old--I think she was 22) thoroughbred mare that my sister already leased. Amy's husband was being transferred somewhere overseas; transporting a horse, especially an older horse, was unwise. Amy offered to sell Late Summer to my parents for one dollar. And Late Summer would be my sister's 12th birthday present.
Nicely, my parents ran the idea past me before this all went down. Two weeks before my sister's birthday, they pulled me aside and explained the situation, and asked if it would be okay. It was the first time in my life where I truly had two very different answers. On the one hand, I wanted to yell, "NO! It's NOT! I want a horse, too! I'm so good, she's so NOT! Why does she get to have her own horse?!" And then the Catholic, good-girl side of me knew I should go with the logical, kind answer, "Sure, I get it. Amy's moving away and can't bring Late Summer. Owning and leasing aren't that different, and your sister will be so excited." Being the good girl, I gulped down the former and went with the latter.
And so, on April 22nd, my sister walked into Late Summer's stall and saw a wreath of gift bows around her neck. She smiled a big, toothy grin, beaming from ear to ear as she proudly put the halter on her horse for the very first time. Hugged and kissed her very own horse. Tacked up her horse for our lesson.
I hung out in my horse's stall, knowing very well that showing my true range of emotions was not appropriate. As I tacked up my leased gelding for our lesson, I knew: Life wasn't fair. Sometimes that works in your favor, sometimes it sure doesn't.
(Update: In a twist of fate, a few months after I learned that lesson, over a plate of seven-layer salad with chips, my father announced that we were unexpectedly moving. To Hawaii. Late Summer could not go with us. I wish I could say that I was mature and felt badly for my sister, who was so excited to get a horse and then just months later had to give her away, but...I am sure I felt somewhat vindicated in an immature, little-sister way.)