Hannah meets me walking from my car up to the horse auction. She is young, sweet sixteen, with long blonde hair, a thin pink jacket, jeans. Leather toed-boots peek out below the denim, and she lifts a pant leg to show me the pink camouflage on the side of the boot.
She fits the atmosphere here: the Clydesdale clip-clopping on gravel, lifting one huge feathered foot at a time; the sleek ginger and roan and brown and pinto bodies tied in stalls in the auction barn; the smell of sawdust and horse; the piles of droppings we avoid; the people in jeans and jackets crowding past.
These are horse people, and I try to imagine I am one of them: me with my just-washed tennis shoes and my lumpy plaid purse where I’ve stashed a book and my e-reader, just in case.
I read all of Margurite Henry’s books when I was young; loved Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind and Stormy, Misty’s Foal.
Hannah owns three horses, which she rides along the river or rides in horse shows; her grandma owns twenty-two.
My family owned a strawberry roan filly at one time, a spirited Arabian. When I tried to lunge her once, she dragged me a good distance across gravel before I finally let go. We gave her away to horse people who would know how to train her.
Hannah and I sit on bleachers in the auction ring next to her mom and aunt and sisters, all of them horse people. I am sharp-eyed, open-eared, trying to follow the quick rhythm of the auction, the staccato words and hidden signals.
I like the Old Order Mennonite young man, standing in the ring, scanning the crowd for bidders. He is smooth shaven and sharp chinned, with glasses and black hat and a thin zippered jacket, open. The combination is interesting somehow.
He is intent, gesturing to his bidders, wiggling a hand back and forth, asking, Do you want to go higher? Just one step? It wouldn’t be much. The hand entices. They nod.
“YUUUUUUUUP!” he bellows.
And repeats the process. It is fascinating.
Men ride horses into the ring. Back them, trot them, stand on their backs to show how gentle they are.
A skinny Amish man on a massive gray and white stud. Muscle, hard beautiful body, long sweeping tail.
An older lady with short waved hair who doesn’t look like a horse person, leading her horse around the ring instead of riding.
Skinny, skittish fillies, rough coated.
A sleek spirited gaming horse, stopping, backing, trotting, galloping at the beck of the young man on his back.
I would have liked to see the two mules, with their pretty saddles and smooth bodies and big ears, sold, but it is time for me to go.
Hannah walks me out to my car.
“Thanks for inviting me,” I say.
Maybe sometime this summer she will take me riding along the river on a very gentle horse, so I can pretend again to be one of the horse people.