“I am going for a quick run!” I yelled to my husband as I shut the door.
It was one of those sweet summer evenings, the sky still a cornflower blue, puffy clouds added for interest. The day had been tough, so I was coasting, just running to run. Then I noticed that my stride was short, my hamstrings tight. I smiled and thought of my horse, Summer Hill, and her amazing stride differential.
I have written about Summer Hill and her sweet temper. She was a fascinating mare, a glowing red chestnut color with only a tiny upside down heart as a white marking on her face. In a crowded horse show ring, the lack of “flash” (white markings) sometimes makes a horse invisible to the judges. Not Summer Hill. Every copper-red hair on her body screamed out to the judges, “Look at me!” And they did. She was mesmerizing – to look at and to ride.
Her neatest trick was one that overtook me today as a tired runner: we would be in a class, jumping a line of fences and I would know that there six nice strides between two fences.
I would find our spot to jump from as I turned a corner and hold for the six strides. Then it would happen: Summer Hill would shift into comfort stride, her attempt to slow time down so all eyes would stay on her. She was Grace Kelly slowly turning around and waiting to finish her smile until she was fully facing the camera. And then we would jump that second fence, people would clap, and I would feel pretty smug, until my trainer would say, “Nice job, Urchin. Did you happen to count your strides coming down that third line of fences…?”
“Six, right?” I knew I had to be wrong or he never would have asked me.
“Six, huh?” and his hand would reach around to the back of his neck and he would shake his head.
“Urchin, how did you manage to get eight strides down an easy six line? Where were you? Were you counting?” And he would look up at me, disappointment all over his face.
“It felt like six…”
“It was eight. This mare is something else.”
And so, as I ran and my stride shortened of its own accord, I had to think, with a little disappointment, but also a small happy pride, “Yep, this Mare is something else.”