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Authors: Laura Chester

Riding Barranca

BOOK: Riding Barranca
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Other books by Laura Chester:

Rancho Weirdo, 2008

Marvel the Marvelous, 2008

Hiding Glory, 2007

Heartbeat for Horses, 2007

Eros & Equus, 2006

Sparks, 2000

Kingdom Come, 2000

Holy Personal, 2000

The Story of the Lake, 1995

The Unmade Bed, 1992

Bitches Ride Alone, 1991

The Stone Baby, 1989

Cradle & All, 1989

Deep Down, 1988

Free Rein, 1988

In the Zone, 1988

Lupus Novice, 1987, 1999

My Pleasure, 1980

Watermark, 1978

Proud & Ashamed, 1978

Chunk Off & Float, 1978

Primagravida, 1975

Nightlatch, 1974

Rising Tides, 1973

First published in 2013 by

Trafalgar Square Books

North Pomfret, Vermont 05053

Copyright © 2013 Laura Chester

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, by any means, without written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer quoting brief excerpts for a review in a magazine, newspaper, or website.

Disclaimer of Liability

The author and publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in this book. While the book is as accurate as the author can make it, there may be errors, omissions, and inaccuracies.

Trafalgar Square Books encourages the use of approved safety helmets in all equestrian sports and activities.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Chester, Laura.

Riding Barranca : finding freedom and forgiveness on the midlife trail / Laura Chester.

pages cm

ISBN 978-1-57076-578-0

1. Horsemanship—Psychological aspects. 2. Human-animal relationships. 3. Nature, Healing power of. I. Title.

SF309.C468 2013



Book design by Michelle Thompson | Fold & Gather Design

Cover design by RM Didier

Typefaces: Fiesole, Florence

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

to the memory
of my mother, Margaret Sheftall Chester
at long last





Blue Moon on the San Rafael

Rough Riders in the Making

Snow on the Road

Sisters in the Saddle

Back Wash

You Don't See Them but They See You

Blackwell Canyon

Such a Sucker

Spurs of the Moment

Ladies Trail Lunch

Cold Crotches

Etchings in the Wash

How I Love to Find a New Trail

Guajolote Flats


Off to Alamos

Over the Mountain


Part of the Family

Definitely an Off Day

Peanut's Drop-Off



A Civilized Ride?


Picking up Peanut

Daphne's Visit

Back on the San Rafael

Illicit Passage

Temporal Canyon

Riding with Abigail

Easter Sunrise

Hog Heaven

Ready to Roll

My Birthday Ride

Helen's Day

Brisk Barranca

Cochise Stronghold

A Watched Moon

Keith and Kacy


We Saw Everything!

Goodbye San Rafael


Barn Again

Baldwin Hill

Familiar Territory

Riding in the Rain

Summer Fields

Mount Washington

Kacy, Regular Rocket Rider


Lake Country


Heat Wave

Love at First Sight

Burst of Energy

New Trail

Riding the Same Loop Backward

Fallen Timber

Beartown Mountain Bugaboo

Wilcox Farm

Too Much for Marcello

Red Umbrella

Back to Beartown

Apple Chapel


Round Pond

Riding by the Sea

Columbus Day Weekend

Euonymus Woods

Bliss on Barranca


Varanasi Carriage Ride

Pushkar Camel and Cattle Fair

Jodphur and Rohet Garh

Jaipur Polo Club


First Snow

Lunar Eclipse

Blizzard Begins


Epiphany, the Deed is Done

Cooling the Story Down


About the Author


by Thomas Moore

I don't know why I am so enchanted by this book by Laura Chester. I'm not a horse person, though after reading the book, I wish I were. If it were a simple book about horses or about various rides taken during the course of a year, I could treat it lightly and let it go. But it is much more than a chronicle or diary. Laura punctuates the rides with unsettling stories of her family, especially her father and mother, and the stories are not all nice. She doesn't tell us how or why her father was a renegade husband. But she's clear that her mother was a difficult person. The counterpoint of horses and family makes this book unusually satisfying. This intrigue, the unanswered questions, the mysterious juxtapositions, are what make this book, to me, a work of art.

I've known Laura for over twenty-five years. Though we haven't seen each other much in a long while, I feel that we've never lost a sense of being colleagues, not only as writers but as pilgrims on this odd path of life. Maybe this connection with her accounts in part for the pleasure I felt in reading her words. It helps that she's a very good writer.

I've often wondered what an animal is. We assume all kinds of things, but I've never felt satisfied with any philosophy of animals. They are like us in many ways. They have some talents that place them above us, especially the power of their senses, and some that seem to place them below us, especially
their lack of speech. But when you live with animals, as I have done for fourteen years now with our dog, you know that they have emotions and some kind of thoughts. They can relate and inspire love. You can argue with them and also worry about their safety. I appreciate the places in this book where Laura tells us what a horse is experiencing. I trust her on this.

Recently I read from one of my favorite Zen masters, Shunryu Suzuki, that he'd like to be a frog, able to sit perfectly still for a long time, and when a fly zips by, gulp it down. He doesn't want to eat flies, but he'd like the capacity for sitting and the quick alertness. I think I might like to be a horse, at least the kind that Laura describes, and especially if I had a rider like her.

There's something mysterious about the joining of human and horse. Old stories tell of horsemen arriving at a community where people had never seen horses before. At first, rider and horse looked like one being, a centaur. That's an intimate bond. To me, a psychotherapist, it means a lot to know that for the Greeks one of the prime educators, especially in the field of medicine, was the Centaur Chiron.

Maybe today when a person rides a horse, she becomes a centaur. There were female centaurs in myth. Maybe it's the blend of human and horse that unleashes the healing power. I get that sense in this book, especially toward the end, when there is an unexpected and beautiful passage of forgiveness. I wonder if this was the purpose of the book, conscious or unconscious, to find family healing through companionship with horses. As in myth, the centaur heals—woman and horse.

Thomas Moore

Author of
Care of the Soul;

Soul Mates; A Religion of One's Own


Unconfined space and a feeling of freedom are what I love most about riding. Sinking into the rhythm of the horse, I am more in touch with my instinctive self—more alert to my surroundings, much like the forgiving animal beneath me. I enjoy exploring new territory, not sure of what challenge might face me next. Even getting lost in the wilderness has its own rewards—reminding me that I am never completely in charge—that the earth is a huge, magnificent place full of surprises. More often than not, I have found that my horse has a better sense of direction than I do. A horse's memory is profound.

BOOK: Riding Barranca
12.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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