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Lay Dee Pete

A Girl's Best Friend

By Leigh MacfarlanePublished 4 years ago ā€¢ 8 min read
Lay Dee Pete in Ladner, BC

"Lay Dee Pete, get your butt back here!"

I was dressed in riding boots and a brown velvet hard hat, and tears were flowing down my cheeks. Not from a fall, or anything that drastic. No, I was crying because my twelve-year-old Palomino Quarter Horse mare, Lay Dee Pete, had escaped and taken it upon herself to trot down one of the busiest streets in the town where I lived. So far, she'd trotted past my elementary school, past the bus loop, the local hospital, and was now on her way to the local fire station. I was trailing, miserable and afraid, down the street in her wake. She had her tail up jauntily. Just another blond out for an afternoon jog.

My family had purchased Lay Dee for me when the horse I had a half-lease on was sold to the other leasor. Goodbye Rocky, hello Lay Dee. I was ten years old at the time, and so was this gorgeous yellow-coated mare. Lay Dee met the specs of both what I was looking for -- a palomino (golden coat with white mane and tail) quarter horse -- and what my parents wanted -- gentle, reliable and reasonably priced.

The day we drove down to Whiterock, British Columbia, to look at her was gray and wet. For me, seeing Lay Dee pacing around her muddy paddock began a love affair that would span a decade of my life.

On this day, two years later, a stranger pulled their car over and ushered me inside. Getting in without hesitation (the mom in me shudders), I wiped my dripping eyes while they trailed my horse down a city street. I hopped out of the car the second another car turned on an angle and hemmed Lay Dee in. With my hand on her dangling reins, the fear turned to relief turned to anger, and I headed back to the stable without so much as a thank you for the drivers who had stopped to help.

I was your typical horse-crazy girl, and when we first bought Lay Dee, we brought her home to the stable where I'd leased Rocky. This show barn and I were a misfit. I was of the romantic persuasion which believed my horse was my new best friend. They were of the more disciplined tradition of silver-embossed bridles and blue rosettes hung from stable doors.

Away from the barn, I was also a misfit. I was that girl who would "canter" down a street (rather than running) and had perfected my whinny so I could talk "horse." I mean, I was ten, I could get away with it, but my family also moved frequently, making it difficult to put down roots and build long-lasting friendships. We were also intensely committed to church activities, seriously narrowing the common ground I could develop with schoolmates.

Enter the unconditional love of my horse. Lay Dee would always be happy to see me. She would greet me with an impatient nod and a gentle whicker from behind her stall door. She was, as billed, entirely gentle. I could, and did, walk underneath her belly or sit between her forelegs. In the ten years we shared, never once did she kick or bite me. She taught me animal husbandry with infinite patience.

Because she was a registered mare, I was able to send away for her pedigree. On the back of her family tree was a full list of her owners. She'd been born in Idaho and had spent time on the racetrack where her highest finish was third. In my mind, however, Lay Dee was lightning fast, and there were days when I did what I could to prove just that.

Lay Dee Pete at Patterson Park Race Track

Eventually we moved away from the show barn to a stable nearer my home. Patterson Park Race Track was at that time a training stable for standardbred cart horses. They also rented stalls to saddle horses. We had strict restrictions on where we could exercise our horses. The race track oval was completely off bounds since the saddle horse gaits chewed up the track in dangerous pattern variations. This meant my twelve-year-old brain was forced to improvise on riding locations.

The local hospital was located beside the track. Initially, there was an empty lot full of dirt hills ridden by motocross riders separating these properties. Those hills were eventually developed into the town bus loop, but before that the hospital put in a long stretch of green lawn that ran the length of the hospital building. This lawn was flat, well-tended, bare of any other gardening, and in my mind, was a perfect racing surface made just for Lay Dee and myself.

Often, I would take Lay Dee across the street to the stretch of grass, imagining that we flying down the homestretch of Arlington's turf track, fans cheering, garland of roses just waiting to be settled around my champion mare's neck. These wild rides came to an end when, pulling up and heading for the winner's circle (aka walking back home to the barn), a black and white police car flashed its lights at me, pulled up alongside us, then beckoned my way.

Apparently, we did indeed have spectators for our dashes. They just weren't racing fans. No, the hospital administrators had decided that Lay Dee and I were distracting their patients, and they called the cops. Which, when I think back on just how terrified I felt that this nice policeman was going to call my strict parents and get me in trouble, seems like overkill. It seems like someone could simply have asked us to leave. However, this contact with the fuzz was a lesson I never forgot -- and Lay Dee and I moved on to more inconspicuous racing grounds.

As well as her time on the race track, Lay Dee's pedigree also revealed that she was once owned by a rodeo association. This isn't totally surprising considering her Quarter Horse breeding and her palomino coloring. It also might explain why she was afraid of cows.

If Lay Dee had been a human, she would have been the embodiment of every blond joke ever told. She was smart -- and she generally used her brain to get herself into crazy scrapes time and again.

That first dash into escapism down a city street was far from her last. There was that time a group of us went riding together and she took off full-speed, dumping me as she rounded a corner. There was also the time after I turned sixteen and the family had moved from the Lower Mainland of BC to the Okanagan, in the province's Interior, where she escaped from her pasture on the family's newly purchased acreage and took herself off running for miles down the gravel of Commonage Rd. On that trek, I discovered her in the fields which are now Predator Ridge golf course, making friends with the retired draft horse who was living out his days in the lush green of his personal multi-acre pasture.

While living at the acreage, Lay Dee and I had miles of government land at our disposal. These unowned hills were covered in deer trails and logging roads, and they were a city girl's dream come true when it came to riding. Now, instead of covert rides on the grounds of public buildings, Lay Dee and I had miles of wooded hills to climb, complete with panoramic views of Okanagan Lake spreading through the valley bottom below us.

My boxer dog, Baby, and Lay Dee and I spent hours wandering up and down trails with no distinguishable destination. Often, I would have to duck low over Lay Dee's neck to avoid being scraped off her back by low-lying tree branches, or whipped across the face when a branch snapped back at her passing. All of that was fine. What was not fine, were stumps.

There were a lot of them in this forested hillside. Lay Dee was terrified by them all. Or, at least, she took advantage of their presence to feign terror, plant her feet, shy, wheel around and head for home in the direction we'd just travelled. She'd fight stubbornly against the commands given which turned her back in the desired direction. She'd never buck, or kick, or bite, but she'd act like stumps might rise up with ghostly arms and kill us both dead.

She was even worse with cows. The land my parents had purchased was in the middle of range land for cattle, and Lay Dee was not the only escape artist in the area. Every so often, we would happen upon cattle doing their thing in places where they shouldn't have been, and Lay Dee would go apoplectic. Planting her feet so she was solidly braced, she would start breathing steam -- snorting in deep, terrified, visible white puffs. She would tremble from ear to hoof, and would break out into insta-sweat. If she couldn't wheel away from these terrifying yet placid creatures, she would cringe as far away from them as she could get. I'd have to hold her on a tight rein for the duration of cow-proximity. If I gave her even an inch of slack, we'd been gone, heading full-speed in blind panic just... away.

I never did know what had happened to her to usurp years of breeding and create such a cow phobia, but it was simply one of her many quirks -- the kind a best friend comes to know and accept and even kind of like. Because those are the unique traits that make one friend more special than any other.

Over the years, Lay Dee was always a safe place for me to store the love I had to give. She didn't always make life easy, which taught me early that the deepest friendships are worth making extra effort. She taught me that friends come with baggage, and that loving that friend requires observing and accepting -- even if you have unanswered questions about the origins of seemingly illogical behaviors.

Lay Dee taught me about responsibility, and about appropriate social boundaries, and she showed me that friendship is not all about one-sided dominance. Rather, it is about an interplay and flexible exchange of give and take. It is about forgiveness and understanding, about laughter and simple pleasure in one another's company. Loving a friend means accepting all of who they are, the good, the bad, the blond. It means enjoying the love they bring to you, and thriving on the love you give to them in return.

Best friends help us, and teach us, and prepare us to be strong enough to offer ourselves to others and to the world around us. Loving Lay Dee made me a fuller, more experienced human being. That is why she was the most excellent best friend I had the privilege of sharing time with. And I enjoyed every minute.


About the Creator

Leigh Macfarlane

With a Creative Writing MFA, Leigh loves writing, photography, music, family, animals, stargazing, swimming, coffee, chocolate. She raised 4 children, bravely works in a daycare and hates car problems. Mosquitoes and Lily the dog love her

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    Leigh MacfarlaneWritten by Leigh Macfarlane

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