When Camila was a girl, she fell in love with horses. She had the plastic pink and purple horses, the realistic molds with long manes and tails, and the squeaky plastic kind. But what she wanted was a real one.
One day when she was nine, we couldn’t find her. We were home, she was home. But where was she? We found her at the edge of our property working a rake through the weeds. She had dragged the big green trash can and was filling it, clearing an area “for the corral.”
That was the day her father and I sat her down for the real talk about riding lessons. She was serious about it, so it seemed time we became serious about it too.
We found a western barn just minutes from our house. Within a month, we were going twice a week: one day for lessons, one day to groom. At the nine month mark, we were talking about a co-lease. And that’s just about the time my cousin called, asking if we would like her to gift her 13-year-old Arabian, Investor, to Camila.
An agreement was reached: Camila would “pay” for Investor by mailing “Aunt Judy” a check every month. Half her allowance, $10, was the agreed-upon payment. Camila and I went to the bank to open a joint account. She wrote her first check the day Darryl and Judy trailered Investor to the barn.
After that, we were at the barn every day. I had never been around horses, never knew one. But Camila took to that horse like it was her dearest responsibility. She loved Investor with a devotion that she demonstrated every day. Each day after work, we would drive to the barn. She would saddle him up, ride him then walk him then brush him. She would spend an hour grooming Investor, talking to him, leaning against his warm side, or standing with her arms around his neck.
I remember one scene: Camila was playing with Investor in the corral. He had on his halter but was not being led; he was simply walking behind her, following her. Suddenly, she began walking in a serpentine pattern. And that horse had his nose as close to her tush as he could, placing his hooves in her footsteps. He was walking serpentine right behind her. I had never seen anything like it.
It seemed he loved her just as much as she loved him.
And, boy, could she ride. It was thrilling to watch her run Investor. They fit somehow. She would lean forward onto his shoulders and roll with his run. Or she would sit up tall in her saddle as he pranced in the way that only an Arabian can prance, lifting his legs to a certain height, moving in an even tempo around the ring.
He was a fine horse, a wonderful companion and friend. And he was the first thing beyond family that Camila loved, loved with a sweet and simple devotion that marked their relationship as eternal. He was her horse and she was his human. They loved each other.
Camila took her last ride on Investor back in 2002. By then, he was 24 and ready to rest. Also by then, there were two other horses beside him in the pasture. He had company – and he always had his girl.
Investor survived Camila by one year. He died two days ago at the incredible age of 36, a rarity for such an animal. I know, as Camila knows, that her father is most responsible for Investor’s longevity. He is a patient, thoughtful, and educated caregiver. But I also imagine those acts of daily devotion had a lot to do with it.
Like Camila, Investor lived a good life. And as one of my sister’s said, if all is as we hope, as it should be, Camila is riding him now. He is spry, ready for his mount, and she is eager, ready to run. She is feeling the wind once again in her hair as she holds onto his mane, and she is whispering into his ear, “Faster, Investor. Faster.”