Where I Belong

I grew up in suburban New Jersey, a land of small tidy mown lawns and clipped hedges. From the first that I can remember, I looked around and knew that something was missing. Our neighbor had one of those concrete lawn statues of a donkey. I recall how, when I was a very small girl of four years, that donkey called to me. I’d cross, what seemed like a vast stretch of grass, to sit on it. The summer before kindergarten, I went to day camp. There was a large swimming pool, which I was terrified of. There were horses, which I was told I was only to ride once a week. So I stood in the poison ivy patch in the woods and gave myself a weeping, itchy rash. I wasn’t allowed to swim with the poison ivy oozing, and so I was sent to the barn daily.

My parents had no interest in horses. They did not want me to ride. Horses, to them, meant that I’d have to join the country club set. I didn’t understand that. Horses to me, meant earthy smells, barn work and the physical challenge of riding. Riding was like being Dr. Doolittle without saying a word out loud. You talked to the horse and the horse talked back.

My parents let me ride once a week at a lesson stable. I’m sure it was expensive and an extravagance, but for me it was never enough. When I was fourteen I asked to go to sleep-away riding camp. They sent me. They didn’t understand my connection to horses, but they respected it. When I was sixteen I went to riding school in England for the summer. Still, my parents hoped that their friends were right when they said, she’ll find boys. I did, but I also went to UNH and got a BS degree in Animal Science, with a focus on horses.

I worked for awhile at barns; I rode dressage and trained with an FEI judge. I had a fancy young horse that I was schooling. But, she went lame and at the same time, I changed course and got into the food world, first cooking in restaurants, and then working as a food writer. Over the years, my riding life was sporadic. I didn’t, couldn’t, own another. There were times that I could lease a horse, but always there was an end to it. I stopped riding during pregnancies. I stopped riding because it’s too expensive. I stopped riding because I thought that my life was so full, and so good in other ways that I could live without the horses. The last time I stopped was six years ago when I had some physical issues that made riding painful. I thought my riding days were over.

Last year I was invited for a trail ride on a friend’s very steady and comfortable Tennessee Walker. It felt good. It didn’t hurt. I thought, Maybe I can ride again.

A friend here in town has a older horse with a myriad of soundness problems. He needs to get out and walk to keep from getting too stiff. I offered to help, and so I’ve been riding Mica, slowly at a walk, since July. Doing this gave me an excuse to talk with the horses. Oh, how I’ve missed those conversations.



I’ve also missed watching the horses talk to each other. Here is Mica and his buddy, Oliver.



I was feeling pretty good, up there on Mica’s back. The owner of another horse at the barn asked if I’d like to ride her gelding, Dune. He’s a good-natured dun. Look at that nice face.



Of course, I said yes. I’ve been riding him a couple of times a week now for the last two months. I do some ring work with him. How I’ve missed schooling a horse, getting to that relaxed, forward flowing movement! Dune and I went on a long trail ride. My body felt just fine. I could ride.

I love my dogs, my chickens, my rabbit, and oh, how the goats make me happy. But this is where I belong, the world framed by the ears of a horse.



I’ve put my name on the wait list at the wonderful barn where Mica and Dune live. I don’t know when a stall will open up. Meanwhile, I’m going to start looking for a horse of my own.


  1. Terry, wonderful, wonderful love story….pursue your dream, your heart tells you so!

  2. Ah bless you Terry. Truly is a lovely story. I’m glad your dreams are coming true. I can’t wait to meet the new friend in your life. Please look over my opionation (don’t think it’s really a word) but to me, a horse is God’s perfect creation. They are so beautiful among many other great attributes. I don’t know where you find the time to do all you do, but I’m glad you find it. :o)

  3. Great story. I hope you get your horse. I am glad you got into food though. I have your cookbooks and I love them.

    • It’s hard to balance horses and the rest of a life, and I don’t regret the time away from them. I couldn’t have done those books and been a professional horsewoman! I’m finding that one of the benefits of aging is that I’m able keep balance in my life.

  4. This is such an inspiring story, thanks for sharing! Congratulations on following another one of your dreams! Because of you I am following some of my forgotten dreams, and I am having a blast! People ask me what kind of animal are you going to get next? Ha!

  5. “But this is where I belong, the world framed by the ears of a horse.” Yes. I’ve felt this for years; I miss my horse and the years I spent riding on the beach and the hills; just my horse, my dog and me.

    Happy that you found your way back and that horses are in your life again.

  6. As a UNH alumni myself I remember the horses and horse barns well. My interest was in Zoology but a couple of my friends were An Sci majors and both were dedicated “horsey” people. Through their encouragement I spent one semester taking riding lessons at the barns. I learned a lot, even how to fall off gracefully. And another interesting point of overlap, another of my friends was from Morristown, New Jersey.

    • The worst fall that I ever took was at UNH – I was dismounting when a cow was walked by the horse ring. My horse bucked and flipped me onto the fence. I still had my helmet on – which needed to be replaced, but my head was amazingly okay.

  7. That sounds like a good plan, adding a horse to your animal family! They scare me and I cant ride properly, but I admire people that can. He or she will bring deserved happiness for you!

  8. Blog posts like this make me so happy. I love seeing people do what they’re passionate about. It just makes me feel so happy, mainly because I know what it feels like. I also love riding horses, but can’t afford them. So I go to my cousin’s to ride occassionally. She has 15. And 10 are belgians. 10 belgians. The poop they produce is impressive.

    Enough of my rambling. Congrats being able to ride again.

    • Can’t imagine getting my legs around a Belgian’s sides. Mica has done a good job of helping me to stretch out my hip joints!

  9. Growing up I felt the same as you, but I also grew up in the burbs with no place for horses. Got to go to horse camp a couple times growing up, but that of course, was not enough. Finally, after being married for 4 years, I was offered a free horse by a friend. I was nervous and had a thousand excuses why I couldn’t but my husband convinced me I should take her – I think he thought that would get it out of my system. That was 20 years ago and I haven’t gotten it out of my system yet. And now, I’ve been able to give my daughter the horse life I missed. She’s been riding since before she could walk and wouldn’t give up horses for anything! We compete in gymkhana together (though she kicks my butt!) and it is the best second childhood I could ever have! The winds of heaven blow between a horses ears!

    I think I’m going for a ride! :-)

  10. So happy for you :) Can’t wait for more horse riding posts and pictures!

  11. Like you I grew up in the city and my first experience with Horses was holidaying here on SSI on our summer vacations. We used to stay in a family cottage, and the neighbours at the top of the hill had a real farm with all kinds of animals. There were 10 kids(children) in the family who all had different farm chores to do before we could take the horses out. I was in heaven after the first time I was brave enough to jump onto the horse bare-back…as that was how the kids all rode in that family. After getting over the feeling of fear after seeing how far the ground was from the horse`s back, and instead feeling the warmth radiating from it and the thrill of the adventures to be had I soon forgot any qualms I had earlier. There were many fun times riding there over my childhood years and the odd time at school camps with my own children. None of my kids ever felt the same love for riding and horses as I did, though. My youngest Grand-daughter is coming up for 5 years old and is expressing an interest so I look forward to once again re-living those wonderful times amongst horses with her. I am really happy for you! Imagine…a Horse to call your own….Ain`t life grand!

  12. Terry, this is so wonderful for you! As a child I would always to go sleep-away Girl Scout Camp Trefoil where they had the horses. It was the best. When my niece and nephew were younger I would take them riding at a place where they have trail rides. First we would go buy proper footwear (boots) then plan which day and which place to go ride. I sure miss those days… (I would take them separately and then we would go together, more rides for me!) I remember the first giggle I heard from my niece when her horse broke out in a trot/gallop, the smile on her face was priceless! .

  13. There is nothing that ever can replace the smell of a horse. So glad you are back in the saddle again. Has anyone commented on you blog that is appears a family of raccoons gather at your coop fencing nightly to peer inside?

    • I sure hope it’s not raccoons. Perhaps you’re seeing the goats? They look ghostly in the nighttime lens of the camera.

      • Well I am not certain. I am looking at the hen cam and glowing eyes appear- eek. My daughter who is 14 reads your blog faithfully! She is very much hands on with her chickens and goats also. And she thoroughly enjoys our garden. It’s funny she will tell me you need to read the henblog or look at the hen cam, often I will tell her to get off the hen cam and go look at our own girls! Thank you for providing a great learning tool for her!

  14. In addition to all your animals and your food world etc you have a gift for writing. It’s always a Pleasure to read about anything you write but especially when I can tell its so close to your heart.

  15. Glad my Mica has had such a positive influence on you. Congratulations on your plan! That is so exciting.
    And I love the pics you took today. I look forward to riding with you – even if we don’t get too far, lol

  16. Welcome back Terry! My story mirrors yours, except for the timing of my injuries. Good luck finding your special equine partner!

    • When I get a horse, we’ll have to meet up for a ride, and catch up! (For my readers out there, Betsy and I met at the UNH horse program!!!)

  17. I appreciate everyone’s comments of enthusiasm and support! It is a terrifying thing, to think about bringing a large, long-lived, costly animal into one’s life. I’ve owned two horses, and both ended up with health problems cutting their useful lives short. But, I also know that you can have a horse for 25 years, like my friend, Melissa’s late, great Mac. It’s an unknown. But you know it’s worth it.

  18. You’re from Joisey?? One of my daughters lives there, and it’s a gorgeous state once you get off the turnpike. Your story is amazing. You’ve done a lot of different things, and it’s inspiring to read about how you could segue from one type of work–teaching dressage–to writing cookbooks without batting an eye. Good luck with keeping a horse. In ND, we used to rent out our horse barn and one acre of pasture (of a two-acre lot) to a couple of horse enthusiasts. They’d ride every afternoon after work. We had this one crazy chicken who’d sleep on the barn roof to avoid coyotes at night.

    • You’re right, there are pockets of NJ that are beautiful. After living in the burbs we moved to a house on a tidal river, and I still think that landscape is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

  19. I see another great book in your future. Exciting news. You have already written the first page. We have a horsewoman in our family. Our niece started riding as a little tyke. She has a beautiful horse and is a very accomplished rider. We are so proud of her.

  20. Terry, ahh, yes, that magical, wonderful thing we seek: balance. You’re so right! Age has a way of getting us in touch with our feelings, so that when we are out of balance, we know it, and we fix it. I love love love horse sitting for my sister-in-law; I get to talk with her horses, feel the hard work of mucking stalls, wear coveralls, and stomp through things in her muck boots that I would NEVER stomp through in my own shoes! And I get to be outside – and with animals. It doesn’t get better than that. Not sure that I want horses, or any large livestock when we retire. But I hope I live close by folks who do, and I will offer to “sit” for them! I am so glad you have come full circle, to live what SARK calls, a “juicy life!”

  21. How wonderful for you! I’ve loved horses all my life. My husband and I decided on getting a horse for our daughter about 4 years ago….little did he know that the horse was for me as well. Nothing makes me happier than when I’m tending to Marmalade. And yes, it’s pricey and time consuming and sometimes exasperating-this horse ownership thing but I love it. <3

  22. I think there may actually be a “horse-crazy” gene which afflicts mostly girls! I remember making a snow horse, tying reins on my bike to steer with, and my Dad helping me make a sawhorse horse. Finally when I was ten my parents bought a horse from an Appaloosa horse farm that was owned by my music teacher at school. We lived in town so we boarded a few miles away. I would ride my bike every morning in the summer to do barn chores and ride, and the afternoons would be spent in the hay loft with a book(usually about horses) watching the boats go by on the Hudson. It was the best! Now at almost 50, I’ve taken a job at a local riding stable so that when I’m ready I’ll be able to properly care for a horse again. I guess it never really goes away does it!

  23. We all seem to drift back to what made us happy in the beginning!
    What breed is Mica?

      • Ah. Did you ever read “White Stallion of Lipizza” by Marguerite Henry? I remember the Hafflinger that was mentioned in that book.

        • I read every single one of her horse books, all of the Black Stallions, the Tiz books, the Blaze books… every horse book at the library.

  24. Yes Terry, I would not have all the animals I have without my husband’s support. He is leary at first, then he builds the best lodging the animals could possibly have!
    He actually has a pet goose. No one but us would have kept the 2 geese that came to our home a year ago.
    We not only have 8 laying hens, 2 Polish hens, 1 Silkie Bantam, 2 Guineas, 4 roosters who live with our 2 goats, during the day, the 2 African geese, 7 ducks, 1 Flemish Giant rabbit,1 cat, 2 Dachshunds, and a rescued Greyhound!
    A fish pond and a turtle maybe, in the future?!!! Miniature cattle interest me, also?!!!!!!
    I expanded my garden this year, too. I feed the animals extra treats out of the garden, so nothing goes to waste!

  25. Terry….a woman who reads my blog (Mary Ellen Carew) and yours, recommended that I check yours out. So here I am and I love it. We have lived on our farm for 32 years and have had horses for 34…until the last 4 I had 6 of my own and would board two or three to pay for mine (and build an indoor). Now I am down to 2 with three others in the barn. Did not get my first until I was 37 and have the same passion for them as I had then. Started out Western and moved into classical dressage, but have not taken lessons for years. I’m also into food and love cooking and having people over for dinner. Have had my Journal since 2/07 and have not missed a day of posting…lots of horse and food photos. I will definitely be back and am so glad I found you. May you get a horse very soon! Now I am going to go back and read more of your posts!

  26. So happy for you Terry! That’s just great…..

    Not sure what kind of horse you are looking for, but I know a number of retired, healthy, good under saddle Standardbreds that are available. Many are free or under $500 because the owners would prefer they have a good forever home instead of going to the Amish for more driving, which is typically where they end up after racing.

    All best, Jen

    • I’ve known a few Standardbreds, and they’ve all had the best personalities. But, I’m looking for a different body type.

  27. Your story is my story! Since I was old enough to see horses, they have been the love of my life. Throughout my childhood, I lived and breathed everything and anything about horses. My poor father had the life scared out of him countless times when we’d be driving somewhere and I would see a horse and holler! When I was 12, that summer my dreams came true when a truck and horse trailer turned in our drive and a horse named Pepper became my world. After Pepper was Brandy, and he was with me for 18 years. Life then took unexpected turns and I have not had a horse to share my days with, and I miss that. I long for the smell of a horse, and the peace I feel when I am with one. Hopefully I will someday have a horse in my life again. Thanks for sharing your “horse heart”!

  28. Terry! So happy to hear this! You know….I have a friend that raises those nice walkers????? If you ever feel like taking another trip out west…we can go look???????? LOL!

  29. A love for horses never dies. It may fade for a time, but it’s always there. It’s just part of who you are.
    Sometimes it manifests into substitution loves – like goats !