Welcome to my own personal lifelong dream come true. Folger Stables is the backdrop for where I've begun (at last!) formal horseback riding lessons. Still sniffling and somewhat under the weather from my persistent cold, having canceled on brunches and parties and even my mom's birthday this past weekend, I kept one commitment: I showed up to ride a pony in Woodside on Sunday morning. I didn't have the contact information for the instructor (it was on my work email, which I thankfully have not yet had to access on the weekend), and they were expecting me. Being a no-show for my very first lesson wasn't even a consideration.

Luckily, the sun was out and the sky was clear. It was almost warm that day, even. Isn't it just stunning?

Not far from the meadow I'm pictured in, there are several stables (as above), many paddocks and pens, and at least one arena for jumping or fencing. That's where I train! The facilities are nestled in Wunderlich Park, just between our home and the Pacific Coast, with redwoods and oaks and creeks and meadows and madrones, much of which is only accessible by foot or horseback.

The tires of my car bit into the gravel of the small parking lot canopied by all the trees (one of my absolute favorite sounds, next only to walking in it), and I parked and stepped out of my car. I seemed to be the only person around and hoped I hadn't botched the time in an OTC-drugged haze, and then I stopped dead still.

I saw them. At least a dozen horses, some with their little cold weather coats on, some ignoring me, some craning their necks curiously, all of them gorgeous and possessed with distinctly unique personalities. After a few moments I looked up the hill and saw a few stablemen in the distance, fussing over a gorgeous black horse with white markings, so I headed there. They sent me back down the hill, past the parking lot to the arena, where a boy no older than ten or eleven was practicing jumps with his pony and a trainer. She sent me back uphill to the stables, and as I reached the top, a little winded, I saw him. Dakota! His reigns were held loosely in my trainer's hand, who smiled at me and told me I was early. I had no idea. I thought I was late! Without much ado at all, the trainer gave me the reigns, told me to walk Dakota to the mounting block and get acquainted, as he had to fetch waiver papers he'd forgotten back in the office for me to sign. And just like that, I was a girl all alone holding the reigns of a big bay with a jet black mane and wide brown eyes. Just like that.

We walked. I led, Dakota followed politely. The trainer came back and I completed the form, snapped my helmet on (the bangs will have to be grown out immediately as they do not at all agree with helmets), went through the motions of cinching the saddle before hoisting myself up to begin the lesson. From there it was easy, the ghosts of lessons I'd taken years ago shaking off dust and taking form again.

I feel tremendously lucky and like I've got a missing piece of my heart back again. Yay!