Over the last 15 years I have been searching for my long lost riding instructor, Monica, a lovely Norwegian woman who I took horseback riding lessons from in my childhood region of suburban New Jersey. But we lost touch, and in the recent years I have searched all over for her to get back in touch.
I rode with her from when I was barely able to walk until I was twelve years old, and my sister and I bought our first ponies from her. We enjoyed the running wild atmosphere, there wasn’t a care in the world when riding with Monica – we would gallop through the woods, jump fences far too high for our little ponies, and ride bareback into lakes. She gave us the sweet and wild childhoods that many kids these days miss out on.
Growing up riding horses I learned so much more than how to take a horse over jumps. In this particular instance I can’t help but emphasize how important a riding instructor can be to a young child; they instill work ethic, values, responsibility, importance, care, and disposition.
One morning when I was eleven or twelve years old my sister’s new showjumping horse, Flame, was in a tragic accident at Monica’s and had to be put down. We had recently moved to a new town and my parents seized this opportunity to move us to a show barn closer to home. Everything was perfect and pristine at the new barn and so were most of the horses; and our instructor was superb. But at one point I started having show anxiety and stopping my horses at jumps, falling off, not wanting to jump as high – and my mom brought me back to Monica for a lesson.
When we arrived at Monica’s barn for my lesson she looked at me with a big smile and said, “you wanna ride a little pony or a big horse?” I had recently returned home from a competition in Florida where I rode at the 1.10m level, but even at 13 years old my anxiety mechanism was in full gear and I said “the little pony.” She gave me a lesson on him, letting me gallop around and jump fences with him for well over the allotted lesson time – just having fun, not overthinking, and no pressure. We said our goodbyes, and that was it. I had been cured and my showing and riding career went on to blossom over the next many years. But I never heard from Monica again.
In college, I ran into a girl from Monica’s and I asked her if she had been in contact – she said no and wasn’t sure where she was. Years later I spoke to my cousin who used to ride at Monica’s with us, but she had only heard a rumor that Monica had moved to a different part of NJ. I kept trying to find bits of information to find her. My mom heard through the grapevine that Monica had been divorced, but we weren’t sure. When I was 18 I even drove all the way back to her old barn to see if there was any information, but no, nothing. I feared that if she had divorced that her last name would be different, but I knew she had two children so I googled her name plus twins, all that existed was a birth record from the local newspaper years ago. I found an email address and phone number, but no luck.
When I met Rasmus and visited Norway for the first time, I thought of her. I remembered the things she would say about Norway, and when she would describe her barn here. As a teenager I would daydream about running away to live on a farm in Norway, a rustic wood barn overlooking a fjord, just like the one Monica had been from; carefree and happy.
So much of what I learned from Monica as a child stayed with me; I often wondered what happened to this teacher of mine from childhood… almost as if she was a fairy godmother that led me to my love of horses.
Well, about a month ago my father sent me a link to an obituary. It was sadly for the father of two girls we used to ride with at Monica’s, their father had a distinct name and he was such a fun, great guy, my dad recognized the article. As I read it, I instantly searched for the girls on Facebook to say hello from an old friend and extend my condolences. These girls plus my sister and I have some hilarious memories from those days. I searched through their friends lists and found a rogue “Monica” with a Norwegian last name. Gold! She had no pictures, but I immediately messaged her. Sure enough, it was her!
The crazy thing? My long lost riding instructor now lives one hour outside of my husband’s hometown in rural Norway. Like, wow. It is actually a small world. So today, we went to see her!!
Stay tuned this week to hear how our long awaited reunion went!