Candace and her dog Pepper. A whimsical lion provides a welcome to the property. Ann Leary visits Candace Bushnell at her cozy Connecticut cottage and talks about her life with horses. Sex and the City, published in , was the basis for the HBO hit series and two subsequent blockbuster movies. Lipstick Jungle became a popular television series on NBC. Do you recall the first time you sat on a horse? How old were you?
Ha — I love that question. When I was four we moved to a new house in Glastonbury, Connecticut. The people who lived across the street had Morgan horses, but they also had a tiny Shetland pony, which I would lure to the fence and then try to get on its back.
I think I probably made a hackamore out of string. Luckily the neighbors were best friends with my parents, so they thought it was funny.
Finally, the man dug up an old Western saddle and put it on the pony, and I used to ride it around the field. It would run around squealing, and I must have fallen off quite a bit. My mother never did anything by halves, so we went to a second-hand tack shop and bought little jodhpurs and field boots and hats. This was all so deliriously exciting.
The stable was in the next town in Marlboro. Our instructor was Spanish — Mr. Alvarez — who seemed very old and wizened but he was probably only forty. I rode an enormous black horse, and I remember doing cavalettis right away — probably on our second lesson. All my friends rode, and we were fearless. I used to jump Mini three feet. I took him to my first horse show — a very local, backyard affair — and won two blue ribbons, probably on the cuteness factor alone.
Did you have any other childhood horses? What kind of riding did you do? Eventually we moved into another house that had a three-horse barn and pastures. My sisters and I each had a horse. My horse was named Harry — he was a quarterhorse who could jump a five-foot straight rail from a trot. I was in Pony Club, so we did dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. At that time, Glastonbury Pony Club had just won the national Pony Club championship so we were considered the best Pony Club in the country.
It was very competitive, but not the way it is today — these were mostly middle-class kids on hundred dollar horses. You can barely board a horse for a month for that price today.
It was idyllic riding, though. It seemed like everyone I knew had a horse. There were miles and miles of trails along the Connecticut River. We used our horses like cars. We went on picnics and took them swimming. The head of our Pony Club was a woman named Jan Conant. She was also a top-notch horsewoman; she had several riders who went to the Olympics. I was both terrified and fascinated by her, and I could never tell whether she liked me or not, although I would live on her farm for a couple of weeks each summer and ride two or three times a day, while also cleaning the stalls, etcetera.
Terrible, but we laughed about it for days. Jan Conant was great friends with Bill Steinkraus, who had a stable with brasses that were polished every day — one of those kinds of places.
He had Olympic dressage horses, and one afternoon Jan Conant took me with her to ride. I did passage and piaffe. When did you move to New York and did you continue riding during your years in the city?
I sold my horse a month before I went to college. It was starting to get dangerous. The jumps on the cross-country courses were getting bigger and wider; suddenly you needed a much more expensive horse to not only compete but to stay in one piece. I actually met one of my first boyfriends riding the trail in Central Park. What made you return to riding and what kind of riding do you do now? I was spending a lot of time at my house in Connecticut writing books.
Phil and Judge Judy. I realized there had to be a better way to spend my time, so I decided to start riding again. Then, of course, I got hooked again. If you grew up riding, the mere smell of the barn brings back a cascade of memories.
I try to ride four or five days a week, depending on my schedule and the weather. Last summer I did third-level, although my poor horse got a Lyme Disease tick, and so the end of the summer was a wash. Would you ever consider writing a novel set in the horse world?