Sunday, April 15, 2012

Welcome to my blog.  I'm single, 36, share custody of my 11-year-old son 50/50 with my ex, have two cats, and am hoping to buy a horse.  I don't think I'll enjoy showing, but I do enjoy trail riding, and want to have goals and benchmarks, so endurance seems like it will be a good fit for me.  I've never BEEN to an endurance ride, so that could change, but that's my goal discipline as I search for a horse.

Like many people of the female persuasion, I’m horse crazy.  Always have been. 

My dad took me for a pony ride when I was really little—somewhere between 5 and 7.  I remember the pony I rode was small enough for the man running the operation (or maybe it was my dad, who is 6’4”) to stand over, a leg on each side, without actually putting weight on it.  It had to have been a tiny Shetland at the biggest, or possibly a mini.

Honestly, I’m not sure this was the brightest idea.  I was a fearful child.  Not just afraid of the dark or of thunderstorms (but yes, I was afraid of those), but also of things like slides, swings, and stairs I could see through or between.  And yes, I got scared a few times during the pony ride.  This was not just a hot walker pony ride, or a leadline pony ride.  This was an honest-to-goodness trail ride, but I happened to be on a pony.  I remember at one point in the ride, “my” pony beelined for a pond to get a drink.  When it put its head down to partake, it seemed there was no more horse—its entire head and neck had disappeared from view.  This, of course, freaked me out.  I probably cried.  I think it also “bolted” during the ride (probably trotted its little tiny legs to catch up), and I freaked out. 

But I still loved horses afterwards.

I read every non-fiction horse book in the children’s section of my local library, then devoured the horse section in the adult section.  I rode every chance I had, but it wasn’t nearly often enough.

A friend of mine bought a completely green part-Arab mare when I was an adolescent, and I got the chance to ride her a few times.  I learned that the one-rein stop I’d read about in books doesn’t do a bit of good when the horse is athletic enough to gallop with its nose touching your boot.  I learned that riding double bareback on a green horse isn’t a good idea, but at least waist-high weeds make for a soft landing.  I learned that horses are accident prone, and horses and barbed wire don’t mix, and how much fun it is to scrub a horse's wound clean.  But I still didn’t get much horse time.

In my teens, our family was friends with a family who lived on site at a summer camp (year round).  The camp had horses (some were also year round).  We begged for the chance to ride, and a few times a year, the planets aligned so that the weather cooperated AND there was an adult available to supervise.  We’d trot and canter around the arena, banging our butts on the saddle endlessly.  A few times, I actually found the rhythm that put me in sync with the horse’s movements, but the moments were fleeting, and I had no clue what I’d done to attain that synchronicity.

I went away to college, found a man I liked, and married him.  At Christmas dinner at his sister’s house, I admired a photo of a horse hanging on her wall, and she told me that was Shadow, her Tennessee Walker, and said I was welcome to come ride with her sometime.  I said, “Don’t say it unless you mean it, because I WILL take you up on that.”  She meant it, so I did take her up on it. 

At Christmas dinner, she’d been dressed up and had fancy acrylic nails, so I had assumed she was one of “those” people, who just owns a horse for the status symbol, but doesn’t like to actually get dirty.  I couldn’t have been more wrong—she’s the one who told me you need to clean a gelding’s sheath periodically, and showed me how.  But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

She was working at a small farm that boarded a few horses and stood their quarter horse at stud.  She didn’t trust her horse (a spooky 4-year-old) with a newbie, but set me up with one of the ranch horses.  She wanted me to learn to feel the horse and develop a good seat, so she had me ride bareback.  I believe it was after a ride or two that she informed me the horse I was riding was the ranch stud.  He was a perfect gentleman, though—the only difference in his behavior from of a typical gelding was that he would puff up to strut past the mares’ pasture, with a whinny or two to make sure they were watching.

I rode Doc bareback in the arena until I was comfortable at walk, trot, and canter, then rode him around and off the property, up and down hills, etc.  I’m sure I rode him in a saddle, too, but I just remember riding him bareback.  I rode other horses at the ranch, too, including (eventually) my sister-in-law’s flighty Tennessee Walker.  She later moved her horses to a bigger ranch closer to where I lived (yay), and I took some hunter/jumper lessons (because that's what the trainer at the barn taught, not because I had any desire to jump) while shopping for a horse. 

I bought a bay Standardbred gelding in the summer of 2000.  He was a pacer, had raced (and earned some money), and his registered name was Hi Big Boy, but I could only hear that voice in a breathy “come hither” intonation, so deemed it an unsuitable name for him, and called him Logan.  He could, and did, trot, but as you asked for a faster and faster speed, he eventually began pacing.  He could NOT, however, canter.  He would try, but it felt like he just kind of flung his front legs around in the air then gave up and paced.

Logan, my first horse
Only a couple of months later, I found out I was pregnant (hadn’t been trying), and my husband and I decided to move closer to both our families.  I knew I couldn’t afford to own a horse and raise a kid (I was planning to stay home), so I “sold” Logan to my sister-in-law for a dollar before moving to Oregon.  She still has him, and he has served her well.  Not sure whether he ever learned to properly canter.

Over the next ten years, my horseback riding was limited to the occasional trail ride at dude ranch type places, two beach rides (with two different outfits—one was a dream come true, the other was a potential nightmare that wasn’t a disaster only due to pure dumb luck), and I even paid for a 6-pack of riding lessons once.  

Me and my son at a local place that does rides for the public.  He was 5 1/2 years old.
Then a couple of years ago, I was browsing Craiglist and saw an ad for horseless cowgirls.  It was for a program offered at a local facility that also provided guided trail rides and fly fishing trips for tourists.  With the program, you can pay one of four different amounts and get one of four different levels of riding time per month.  The horses and riders are both rated according to ability level, and you can ride any horse within your ability level.  I rode everything from trail-plodding quarter horses to fancy show-bred horses, to draft horses.  Most of the riding was just trail riding, without any real instruction, but I took a couple of lessons and did some arena riding, too.  But mostly, I had a couple of great summers cantering, trotting, and walking through the woods.

Both photos are of my son, age 9, on George (RIP).  Yes, his helmet is on way too loose.
Which brings me to my desire to buy a horse, and the saga that follows.  I'll save all that for later, this has already been a very VERY long post.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, well what about buying Logan back??? LOL