Thursday, April 9, 2009

Playground revisited

That was my childhood bubble. Up there on the hill, it was an otherworldly palace of horse pursuits. I rode there for many years. I made my best and longest friends on those isles, suffered a great deal of agony in the name of equitation, and gained a clear understanding of equestrian style in Old Salem's hallowed isles.

In that time, the owners changed a couple of times. First was this gentleman and his wife.

He went on to race cars and build a different sort of horse farm, a place where children with cancer could go to ride. He was a good man with a lovely family and it was a nice place to be for a nine year old future Hostess.

Then there were other owners, and the place began to take on airs. Silly, really. If there was ever a venerable house of equine love, lore, and the object of respect, it was Old Salem. The place was a hotbed of the best jumping equestrian talents in the nation: World Cupp'ers, Olympians, and The Natural, the most expensive horse ever purchased on the day his transfer was arranged in Germany.

Unfortunately, one of the owners who made the place a little less attainable by truly talented riders who have been well-served by training there, chose to distinguish himself in this fashion. All I can say about that is that I hope it isn't true but that around here, we have long said there was a certain overt and obnoxious display of wealth that just was not the way here.

Regardless, I had many happy years there: At the shows.

In the practice rings.

On the isle.

I still take a deep breath when I look at the place as I drive by it each day. After a five year renovation project, the showplace dial has been turn up to 11. It is a knee buckler for horse people: In addition to the grass, sand, and dressage rings, there are two indoor arenas. One of those is the sort you would build if you could build any indoor horse stadium. Now there is also a gym, cafe, bar and a lot of other nonsense having nothing to do with horses but making it more enticing to board there as it can be your one-stop workout facility; horses, free weights, lattes.

It took five years to get to the shots above. To someone it was worth every moment. To one of us it has been five years of watching a grand old house fall to the demands of a conspicuously consuming culture new to these parts. Only a few more years passing will allow us to understand if this kind of commercial animal was a wise decision. It is finally finished now that the economy has tanked and may not sustain base per-horse boarding costs of $3600 a month.

Not everything here has changed, however. We are lucky that our green fields have a few angels and all will always be able to ride here. There will always be tack trunks and fresh air. Now we're assured, regardless of our proximity to New York City, that the sprawl cannot touch us. That feels good. I took my little girl out on the bridle trails for the first time today. It was amazing to see another generation moving across the hills upon which Lois and rode as children. How I wish I could have frozen time right there: The North Salem sun dancing on the cheeks of my first child as she laughed on top of a field jump and the hounds passed within two hundred feet of us at full cry.

This post was supposed to be about equestrian style and I lost it somewhere. I do not know where it went but I like it here and for a moment I thought you might want to have a set right there next to me on my old field jump; this was my playground.

I will get back to the colors and tack trunks in a minute but at least I have established my credentials in discussing same herein.


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LIMOM said...

There is nothing like a kid and an open field, except maybe a kid, a horse, and an open field.

I have watched sprawl destroy almost every one of my childhood play spaces. My concern about my kids being more comfortable in a mall than in the woods nearly drove us out of the area. Then one day I discovered that the amazing sand and surf from my childhood was still intact. Like you, I give thanks to those committed angels who fight to keep open spaces, beaches, and historic sites intact for the next generation. Now we are a family of surfers.

I can't freeze time, but I can take a million pictures of two kids riding the waves all the way into the sand......and feel blessed that some things survived the relentless march of progress and affluence.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Funny how much you seemed to learn on that playground.

thepreppyprincess said...

Oh Miss Hostess, this is just a divine post, thank you for sharing of your youth and also the present. You describe things so beautifully, it is like reading a rich, lush tapestry. And the photos enhance your descriptions so week, they are wonderful!

Thank you!