In my daydreams of soul, when I feel the wind rushing through my hair and gather my strength to stretch my legs to cover as much ground as I can muster in one leaping stride, I raise up for a brief moment to survey the terrain I have covered and look down at those legs, thrusting out in front of me to see -- I am a horse -- and I am free.
My uncle was a track vet in New Mexico. My aunt worked the ticket counter. Cousins showed horses. I had aspirations of being a jockey - until I discovered it would require me to be about one third my size.
Meeting some of the jockeys in passing, I soon realized horse racing was more than a sport, this was a life's calling and a lifestyle that required total commitment of mind, body and soul - and an agreement to work in tandem with the soul of a horse.
The horses I knew and loved were far removed from that environment - but our victories and joinings of soul were no less valuable or life-changing. Horses were my first love, and I drew pictures in pencil, crayon and chalk in hopes of getting one.
Pepper came into my life when I was 10 and a half. A beautiful, steel gray, quarter-horse mare, she didn't exactly give me a pass. Matter of fact I have scars on my cheek from when I inadvertently walked into a boundary dispute between her and her son, scarred shins from hitting the barrel she thought she might be able to run through rather than around.
Don't remember any major damage from falling after she tried to hurdle the barb wire fence. Live and learn. She taught me to pay attention and respect her for sometimes knowing better what her abilities might be in any given situation. Her greatest gift to me: Sonny - her first colt - and my best friend.
It seems like a lifetime ago now. I don't live there but I do treasure my memories. Still, sometimes, I wonder what it would have been like to ride the winning Derby horse. With Derby day fast approaching, PBS has an inspiring tribute to the legacy of the Racing Horse.