Ups and Downs

Written By: Darlene  Famiglietti

“No way – I don’t know how to ride a horse.” The year was 2000. I was 34 years old and newly divorced. My friend suggested we take a ride out to Montauk and go horseback riding on the beach. I had never ridden a horse.

This was a time of change time for me. After a couple of years of infertility issues, my then husband and I ended our marriage. My life was not where I thought it would be. The children I thought would fill my house did not come. My marriage was over. My house was sold. For the first time in my life I was living alone. I had recently started a new job. I was investigating adoption as a single parent. So I never rode a horse – in this year of firsts it was just one more.

It was a beautiful spring day. The sky was the kind of blue that goes on forever. The winter chill was gone from the air, and we could feel the hint of the summer to come in the warm breeze. We hopped in the car for the scenic ride to Montauk.

We stopped at The Lobster Roll; the red, white and blue awning and large LUNCH sign shine like a beacon to the east end. We pulled into the gravel parking lot and could smell a mixture of seafood and burgers. Eating at this restaurant is a sure sign that summer has arrived. We sat outside and ate our meal, enjoying the food and the day. The East End magic was beginning to take hold.

Onward to Deep Hollow Ranch – “the oldest working ranch in the USA“. We pulled up into a dusty parking lot and got out of our car. We were greeted by a tall man with graying hair. I told him I had never been on a horse before. He wasn’t worried at all. He led us over to the horse, a beautiful chestnut brown with eyes that seemed to look right into my soul. Somehow, looking at this majestic animal gave me a sense of peace. Now I had to get on – not an easy feat for this 5’3” woman! Thankfully, our guide helped me up. My friend and I would be going out on the trail alone. The early spring weekday afforded us a private ride. Our guide was friendly and patient. He wound us through beautiful wooded trails, the sun coming through the not yet full foliage of the trees. The horses were walking at an easy pace. They didn’t seem to mind the extra weight of us on their backs at all. We wandered through the woods a bit, then our guide asked if we’d like to try trotting. Why not? The horse started to move a little quicker, and I started to bounce around in my seat. My friend and I were laughing so hard. It felt so good to laugh! No one told me about posting before we started to trot. Posting is the up and down motion you make in your saddle to keep time with the horse. We stopped to gather our senses, then our guide told me what to do. On our second attempt at trotting I was more in control. The up and down motion of my body on the horse reminded me of the ups and downs in my life, and I could feel a shift in my being. We wandered through the woods and onto the sandy shores of the beach. I did not realize we were going to end up on the shoreline. I am a beach girl at heart and seeing the sand and surf while on the back of this beautiful animal struck a chord in my soul. The graceful movement of the horse combined with the smell of the ocean and the sun on my face made me smile, and a sense of calm came over me. I knew at this moment that all would be well – that my life was heading for an upswing.

We continued on our ride and headed back to the stable. I was grinning from ear to ear. Our guide helped me down from the horse. I stayed by the horse’s side for a few minutes stroking his neck and looking into his deep eyes. I silently thanked him for the ride and for so much more. I was thankful for the feeling this experience gave me – the feeling of joy that I thought I had lost. I looked around at the beauty that surrounded me – the green of the trees reaching toward an endless blue sky, the ocean waves breaking into a white foam on the soft sand, the sun in my eyes and the wind in my hair. I smiled at my friend and thanked her for convincing me to take this ride.

Montauk has always held special magic for me. I love to visit the lighthouse and walk along the shoreline. I love to sit on the boulders right up against the ocean and smell the salt air and listen to the waves crashing. This was a totally different experience. The combination of horseback riding and the glory of the scenery was surreal. I felt that my life was on the path it was meant to take. I felt inspired. I felt invincible.