“Faith and a good horse will carry you far,” says Sir Gottfried to young Seppel during their journey to the Wartburg Castle. In certain aspects the scenes in Kingdom of the Birds involving Seppel and his little black horse Tintenfleck (which is German for “inkblot”) or red-haired Ilse von Berlepsch and her white mare Eisblume are the culmination of all the horse stories I wrote in seventh and eighth grade.
Unlike some horse-crazy young people, I could do more than daydream about riding. In the old barn on my family’s property were a black pony called Thunder, a pinto named Prince, and a chestnut known as Charlie Brown.
Sometimes I would ride a mile down the road to visit the Haas kids, another big family in an old farmhouse. Jean was my age, Ann-Marie was two years older, and both of them were horse-crazy too. In their pasture were a pony named Dolly and a white horse called Cindy. None of us took riding lessons. Unlike Seppel and Ilse, we had no Captain von Berlepsch to school us in horsemanship. We just rode. Jean and Ann-Marie were absolutely fearless. I can still picture them galloping bareback and barefoot, Jean’s blond ponytail bouncing and Ann-Marie’s red hair flying.
Having come far from those teen years, I have not ridden a horse in a long time. Ann-Marie, on the other hand, is still riding, and, just as Ilse von Berlepsch would have done, she and Jean have introduced their children to the joys of horsemanship.