Riding on Empty

Somewhere between the stable dirt and the saddle, girls who love horses find the women they will become. Up there, it’s not about being a girl. Riding requires toughness and gentleness, strength and smarts — characteristics that do not always sit easily together in a young girl’s world.

Some men laughingly posit that girls need horses because it gives them training in managing big, smelly, unruly and unpredictable creatures, a life skill women need to master before entering serious relationships with men. But what girls really learn from horses is about freedom, the freedom to be fully and fearlessly themselves. It’s a feeling that remains, whether their eventually bigger boots walk barn floors or Broadway.

It’s a responsibility — keeping a horse well is no easy task — but it’s rewarding. And the feeling of riding is a peculiarly individual release that all riders, girls or boys, women or men, understand.

Somewhere between the old Vineyard and the new, girls and boys who love horses have lost opportunities. The experience of horses has become an expensive one. Any Island parent of limited means with a pony-crazy kid soon hears about Crow Hollow Farm. Samantha Look, an Island girl who grew up riding West Tisbury trails, made it her business to keep them open to the next generation. She moved its beautiful old barn from off-Island. She made discounts, work-for-riding deals, scholarships, keeping riding as safe and as affordable as she could. But she has come up short; with a young family, she can no longer keep Crow Hollow Farm going herself. She has reluctantly put it up for sale.

Sometime before the horse farm is sold, perhaps someone will come along and find a creative way to keep Crow Hollow’s affordable opportunities available. For the better women and men those young riders will become.