When I was growing up, I loved horses. In elementary school during the 1960s, I owned individual and sets of the Breyer Horse Collections. If you played with them, too, you might remember these miniature horses were glossy plastic. The company manufactured Arabian, Palomino, Appaloosa, Quarter horse, and Clydesdale miniature varieties. I named every one of my 20-plus pint-sized horses and wrote their names with a magic marker on duct tape strips. I placed these strips on their bellies. Two names I still remember were King (a stallion) and Flame (a foal).
As an only child with an overactive imagination, I would entertain myself on long road trips. I pretended an imaginary horse was running along beside our car driven by one of my parents. The horse was harnessed, leashed, and tethered as I sat in the back seat and cracked my window down a bit so I could hold my hand out and hold on to my horse.
And my horse, (you would think I’d remember his name but I don’t), was keeping up with us, too…on every long trip…at 60 miles per hour…at more than three hours a stretch…down expressways…over bridges…without food or water. Poor pony. Gives new meaning to the word, ‘horsepower.’
My cousin had a horse once. I watched it bite her on the cheek when she and I were both about eight. Maybe that’s one reason my parents never bought a pony for me. And besides, I could ride it whenever she did at no expense to own one.
So, I had to fantasize. And my dreams lasted for a while. In third grade, a group of girls (never boys) played ‘horse’ at recess. We feigned to ride horses over jumps in an enclosed area. We collected broken branches and gathered rocks from the playground to build low-jumping fences all over the designated space in the school yard.
Recess must have been at least an hour, it seemed, because every day it took almost that long to ‘rebuild’ our horse hurdles. By the time we finished building and were ready to jump, we would have about five minutes left of our outdoor time and then we’d be called to come back for class.
I say ‘rebuild’ because the next day we would come out to play during our specific time and find all our hard work had been destroyed by the fourth grade classes when it was their turn after us to play outside in the same area. Bummed out, of course, we nevertheless reconfigured, jumped a bit, and then be called into the building when recess was over. I guess those fourth graders didn’t like playing ‘horse.” It was like the movie “Ground Hog Day.” We went outside, we built, we jumped, we left, and our space was torn down. Built, jumped, left, torn down. Why did we continue to put up with that?
But what else were we going to do? All we had on our 1960s playground were six swings and one slide. We had mastered those and we were not going to play with the boys. They had imaginary guns.