Authors: Laura Chester
Other books by Laura Chester:
Rancho Weirdo, 2008
Marvel the Marvelous, 2008
Hiding Glory, 2007
Heartbeat for Horses, 2007
Eros & Equus, 2006
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
Proud & Ashamed, 1978
Chunk Off & Float, 1978
Rising Tides, 1973
First published in 2013 by
Trafalgar Square Books
North Pomfret, Vermont 05053
Copyright Â© 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
Riding Barranca : finding freedom and forgiveness on the midlife trail / Laura Chester.
1. HorsemanshipâPsychological aspects. 2. Human-animal relationships. 3. Nature, Healing power of. I. Title.
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
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 healsâwoman and horse.
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 selfâmore 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 rewardsâreminding me that I am never completely in chargeâthat 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.