I learned to ride in Sheffield, England. I rode Pixie, Dixie, Pepe, and Hector. Hector bucked me off.
In Wilton, Connecticut, I rode Gunsmoke, Cinders, Appy, Danny, and Turok. I rode Turok over hill and dale, literally, with my friend Daisy. We would pile on, hit the road, and be gone for HOURS. Our parents had absolutely no idea where we were, or if we were still alive.
In Pennsylvania I had Plenty. In East Hampton I had Sky Pilot and also rode Sunny (flew off of him so hard, sand made it all the way to my toes, in my form fitted custom boots), Mr. Bay, Belle (owned by super model Christie Brinkley), Starling, Mocha, and Mariah. The last 3 being the Arabians that I took care of for the Ross Estate. A whole other story, some day….
In France, I have settled just outside of Le Dorat. Which has an equine breeding facility, lots of fields (champs, your french lesson for today) with horses, and several area riding schools. Directly across my street, my neighbors have 4 horses. They store the hay in the top of the house. Also a story for another day…There is also a racing hippodrome. In fact 2 days from now, there is a steeplechase race! I am in heaven.
On Friday my friend Karen mentioned there was a horse show in Le Dorat, over the weekend.
Her: In Le Dorat
Me: Yes, but where?
Her: IN Le Dorat
She wasn’t kidding. Le Dorat is a small village, and on Saturday morning I walked around the corner from the vet’s office to….a horse show. IN Le Dorat. As in, the hospital parking lot was filled with sand and was now a schooling ring. Rows of temporary stalls had been constructed right in the road, in front of people’s homes and businesses. Little tents popped up everywhere, where I am guessing the riders and their horse help, slept. Large horse vans emblazoned with SHOW JUMPERS, trailers, cars, giant bales of hay and straw, hoses for water, dogs, children….riders, trainers, food stalls, beer bars, a tiny grandstand…
Horses clopped right up the road to the show ring. Hey, if the show fits, have it!!
Now you all know I lived in the Hamptons. Where horses take serious money. Our shows brought Olympic steeds and riders, Mayor Bloomberg’s daughter, Bruce Springsteen’s daughter (now an Olympian) and riders from across America. There was a latino contingency of grooms, decked out stalls with banners and ribbons from all riding schools, a grand stand to hold hundreds. The VIP tent, shopping ’till you dropped, champagne, wine, fine dining…immaculate riders, as they had to touch nothing dirty, they just needed to mount their perfectly groomed horse, and show it off.
Prizes included Rolex watches.
I always, even as a spectator, felt less than.
So the Le Dorat show was a charmer. Riders put in sweat equity, family members helped. Horses’ muzzles were whiskery, no groom to shave them. Tack looked like it could use a good Laura Lee cleaning, and some leather conditioner. Buckets needed rinsing, vans sweeping, dogs a good bath.
When they watered the show ring, between classes, barefooted children ran in, wading in the water as if it was a day at the beach. Oysters were eaten by riders, and they drank their wine as well. Not even a horse show stops the perfunctory 2 hour lunch break.
But the horses were still grace and beauty, with hearts and minds set on speed and flight, while keeping their cargo safe. And the riders were experience and tenacity, with built in GPS systems to guide their horses steadily through the maze of obstacles, with a good dose of faith that the animal would defer to their express wishes.
I met a charming young lady, a beautiful equestrian. Izzabella explained several things to us, told us all about herself, introduced her dogs, and talked about her love for her life in France. She came from the UK 2 years ago with her family, and riding is her passion. How refreshing to meet a 16 year old who never looked at her phone while speaking with us, and exuded appreciation for the fact she felt she was ‘living her best life’ in the french countryside. Pure joy. We were thrilled to see her jump a clean round and ribbon in her class.
So, you may not be interested in horses. But the little Le Dorat horse show strengthened my and Howard’s happiness that we chose this area of France. Life is simply, sweeter. Members of the community who might not, on a daily basis, be interested in horses either, came to watch and cheer. We saw our favorite young fellow from the hardware store, with his parents, enjoying some beers and the feeling of the ground as it shook, when a horse galloped by and flew over a fence. People old and young, celebrating hard work and the thrill of a perfectly ridden course.
The prizes were simple too. Which made me appreciate, even more, the efforts of the horse and rider.