Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Different Kind of Riding, and Dreaming

I'm not a betting woman, but my money, and my heart, is on Pants On Fire in the Kentucky Derby.

Number one; that's a great name for any horse. And the phrase Pants On Fire makes me laugh, and makes me think of a favorite song.

Number two; a young woman who--by her own description, kept her mouth shut and pushed back to earn a place in the high-risk, sometimes brutal world of horse-racing--will be aboard that animal. 

And none of this has a thing to do with bikes--except for this. My first bike, a blue girls's Schwinn that probably came from Marcello's Sporting Goods in Boonton, NJ, was simply a substitute for what I really wanted; a pony.

I was one of those horse-crazy girls who badgered my parents for a pony. Then, seeing I was getting nowhere, downsized that dream to riding lessons. Never happened. (I'm not bitter, really Mom.) Instead, one Christmas morning, I got that blue Schwinn.

I'm not gonna lie. It was a disappointment. But it didn't kill my dream, it simply meant I developed some odd habits when I rode my bike. Like posting, as a rider does at a trot. Like keeping my heels down on the pedals. Stuff I learned from watching my best friend Molly when I tagged along for her riding lessons at a barn that to me, smelled like heaven.

I would eventually learn to ride--not well--as an adult. And that was the result of a gentle push from someone to whom I owe a great debt. But I digress.

The thing is, a horse-crazy girl who first rode under her initials to avoid being dismissed as a 'girl rider', will be aboard Pants on Fire.  A. R. Napravnik has shown she's got the grit, the fire and the mental and physical toughness that it takes to achieve her dream. No matter what the finish is, she's a winner in my heart.

And mothers, watch out. Your girls have a brand-new heroine.

The photo here is of yours truly with a cute blonde named Nugget. One of the tolerant horses that--with the help of a truly great instructor--taught me to ride.

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