I met the woman I would like to be for only a fleeting moment, but one which is planted in my mind powerful and deep.
I was walking along the Dorset path, through the woods, across the heath and down to hill to the pebbled sea, and as I walked, I saw a couple talking to a woman on a horse. I watched the horse dance and fidget, heard its call, saw the rider manage its impatience and reassure it that soon it would be on its way again.
They moved off before I reached them, greeting the couple on their late morning stroll. But there is a gate that sticks, by the blackberry bushes and horse had to pause as the owner dismounted to release the catch and lift it up again.
We met at the gate and I saw that the rider was a woman who looked slightly older than me. It wasn’t the words we exchanged across the five-bar gate, but what I saw in her that I want for me.
She was riding bareback, only loose reins, no saddle, no stirrups, nothing to keep her in place. The horse was wet from ocean spray and sweat where they two of them had been along the paths behind the sea, checking the gates such as these, for, she told me, this was her land and she was checking the gates for the cattle they were about to release. Her hands were strong, her eyes were clear, her look direct, her body poised and relaxed as she swung herself up onto her horse’s back, hair whisping swirls into the breeze.
‘Not bad for a day job is it?’ She smiled and trotted away.
I followed her with my eyes, along the track, turning into a field and picking up speed, cantering across the gorse and scrub, horse and woman as one, rising and falling, flying across the land, so free.
This is the woman I want to be. I want my skin to be bare and browned by days in the sun, my hair to be tangled, wild and free. I want to ride bareback along the land, through the sea, feeling the wind in my hair, the spray on my skin, happy in my own bones, with nowhere else to go and no one else to be.