My love of horses started at a very young age, like most horse sick people. I still remember the snow horse my dad made for me when I was very very young. Forget the snowman, we rolled a bunch of snowballs together, and my dad, the artist that he was, carved out a horse lying down for me to ride! How cool was that! And of course there was the "My Little Pony" and Breyer collections. The piles of Black Stallion and Saddle Club books. And any other horse book or magazine I could get my hands on!
But my first experience around real horses didn't come till age 13. My mom being a single mom, there was no way in the world we could afford a horse. Horse ownership would have to wait till I as an adult. But I was determined to somehow be around horses! Eventually I met a new friend at school that had a horse, a big beautiful chestnut OTTB mare named Hottie. I never really got to ride Hottie, just once on the lunge line, she was way too much horse for such a green horn to ride, her registered name of Hotwire was fitting. But I spent many days around my friend's house, helping take care of Hottie, going to jumping shows and lessons with them, and listening to her dad's racing stories, since he used to be a jockey down at the old DRC track.
Next I volunteered for a horse back riding for the handicapped program that ran one day a week for a few weeks out at the fairgrounds. I worked as a side walker, and sometimes scored a short ride around the arena on their best baby sitter horse after the class. But I didn't care, I was just thrilled to be around horses, let alone get to actually ride one!
Then I met the Lewis's and was introduced to Arabians. They were looking for someone to clean stalls, and we ended up making an arrangement for me to clean stalls in exchange for riding lessons. Well, the riding lessons weren't really lessons, it was basically plop me on the old baby sitter, a big chestnut Arabian gelding named Marafic, and let me go exercise him for her son, who wanted to show, but didn't want to put the work into riding old Marafic to keep him fit. So I had many rides on Marafic in the round pen and in the pasture, basically figuring things out as I went along. I might have had no idea what I was doing, and thank goodness Marafic was a good old sport, but I was on top of the world!
Eventually, when it was decided I could stay on Marafic well enough at the walk, trot, and canter, I got to start riding Honor as well. A smaller, rose grey Arabian gelding, who belonged to their only boarder. Honor was a sweetie, but very young and green broke and needed some miles, since his owner hardly had time to do anything with him. So let's put the newbie on the green horse. Somehow we survived together, and I learned real quick how to stay in the saddle! Especially considering the only saddle Honor's owner had for him was a cutback saddle seat!
Then came a little work for the Lewis's trainer, and a trip to the Michigan All Arabian Horse show to work as a groom! What an amazing experience that was! And while working for their trainer, I got to find out exactly what collecting off a stallion was. As well as a bit of an introduction to the sport of reining.
But eventually we parted ways and I met another friend at school who also had a horse. A big black OTTB gelding named Bo. Of course, Bo was WAY too much for me to handle, Bo definitely fell in the crazy OTTB category, I guess his registered name of Firegod was fitting, but as luck would have it, the barn where she boarded him had a sweet little Morgan gelding named Midnight that was broke, but didn't know a whole lot, and hadn't been ridden in years, but I was welcome to ride him as much as I wanted. The only saddle my friend had that would fit the sweet little guy was an english one, and once again I was learning to ride on the fly, but at least this time I had someone there with me, coaching me as we went along. Poor Midnight was such a great sport, he tried so hard, and we learn a lot together.
This was also the barn where I discovered that apparently it was easier to condition Standardbreds for racing using a pickup truck rather than a sulky. Why bother harnessing them up to condition them when you can just use the truck. It was the weirdest thing, watching the barn owner go flying down the dirt road in his truck, one hand on the steering wheel, the other hand hanging out the window loosely holding the lead line of the Standardbred pacing at top speed next to the drivers door! And better yet, you can exercise multiple horses at once! As the barn owner went flying down the dirt road with a pacer outside his window, and two people sitting on the tailgate holding the lead lines of the pacer and trotter bookin' it behind the truck. I still shake my head at the memories! This can't be the safest means of conditioning Standardbreds getting ready to go back to the track, but according to the barn owner, it was perfectly safe, just as long as you let go and didn't get tangled in the lead rope if something went wrong. Yeah, real safe.
Anywho, eventually my friend moved her horse to another farm, and that is how I met the Edingtons, who bred palomino Quarter Horses, and I became part of the family, and went through a long string of horses over a lot of years!
There was Twister, the 14.2 hand palomino mare, who did a little bit of everything, and gave me a well rounded education. The very first thing she taught me was not to pull back and squeeze at the same time, that resulted in her rearing and flipping over on top of me. I climbed right back on, and never made that mistake on her again! We did english and western. Went trail riding together. Twister loved to pull her buggy or sleigh, so I learned how to drive, and drove that little mare all over the neighborhood! She took me to my very first horse show, where we did a few english and western flat classes. Eventually we learned how to jump together, and went to a few shows at Fox Brush Farms and did some of the crossrail classes. I owe a lot to Twister! She was an amazing little mare!
There was Jesse, the blind broodmare that I never rode, but taught me a lot about being around horses and letting them know where you're at, and how not to startle them.
There were the stallions. Lightening, the senior palomino stallion with a bad back, who was a good boy, but demanded a fair amount of respect if you were going to handle him, he was definitely a stallion. Echo, the sweet and shy bay stallion who never really acted like a stallion. I wanted to start him under saddle so bad, but he was suposed to be someone else's project. And Thunderbolt, the half broke young chestnut stallion that I got to put some miles on. And while he was a pretty good boy, he was definitely a stallion, and had the attitude to go with it at times! Lightening being his sire, he was definitely his father's son.
|Rosie and her little cast.|
Eventually I met another friend in high school who recruited me for the High School Equestrian team! Her mom's horse needed a job other than pasture ornament, and I was to be her rider. And so Fancy, a 16 hand breeding stock Thoroughbred/Appaloosa cross mare, came into my life, the odd colored liver chestnut with a big white blaze and four white feet. She'd been a jumper in the past, and our team needed a jumper. And so we practiced long and hard, and finally we moved up from crossrails, and were jumping courses for the equestrain team, as well as showing saddle seat, western, bareback, showmanship, and hunt seat. I had a blast on that mare, and many spills and chills, but I always bounced back for more. We even joined one of the 4-H clubs, and showed at the county fair.
|Perfection At Las (aka Chaz)|
Next came my introduction to Haflingers! My boyfriend at the time lived with his grandfather, who bred and raised Haflingers. He didn't do much with them, they were a bunch of pets. The old mare was broke to drive, but that was about it. Eventually my friend Alaina and I set to work breaking Haflingers, we couldn't resist not riding these adorable little horses! So Babe, Becky, and Queenie were all started under saddle and we trail rode those horses all over the neighborhood! Started breaking King, but he had a bad habit of turning things into a rodeo, so after several bucking bronc rides, one that nearly landed me in the manure spreader, we gave up on him, there were other, better minded Haflingers there to start riding! And lots of young ones to spend time with ground driving and teaching ground manners. And lots of adorable foals to play with!
And among that herd of broodmares and foals was the sweetest little stallion named Wayne that I just fell head over heels for!! Grandpa didn't own him, a friend of his down the road did. But Hank had two stallions, and after Wayne and Barney got loose together one time, Wayne got shipped down to Grandpa's barn to stay. Breeding Grandpa's mares to pay for his keep. lol!
It was also during this time that I started working at Scheid's Quarter Horses. Cleaning stalls and taking care of their horses. Most of the show horses lived with the trainer. But the barn was always full of youngsters not yet ready to enter training, embryo transfer mares carrying new foals to come, and Mindy, the old retired show mare that ruled the roost, still kickin', literally, at 25 years old. But many great memories there too. Teaching the youngsters manners. Gentling the usually half wild embryo transfer mares, and fussing over the foals when they were born. Sometimes lunging the youngsters or show horses when they were home. Taking old Mindy for a trail ride from time to time. And when Rita came home in semi retirement, getting paid to take her for trail rides, to keep her in shape between shows. Wow, getting to ride Scotch Margarita! Talk about riding a cadillac!!!! And if you don't know who Scotch Margarita is, well, she's only the second highest points earning mare in the history of the AQHA, and recently became a member of the AQHA Hall of Fame!! And they paid me to ride her!!!! Many great memories there. And hard ones too, that taught me the harsher side of being around horses. Lady's sick foal who we lost at a month old. Losing a broodmare a few hours after birth and having an orphaned foal. Having to help the vet put another mare down due to severe colic and a twisted gut who had a two month old foal at her side. As hard as those lessons were, I guess it's good to see the ups and the downs before you venture into horse ownership.
But now back to the Haflingers and that sweet little stallion I was so in love with. I was determined to ride him and finally got permission to start him under saddle. And very shortly after that, Wayne's owner ended up having to sell him, and so finally began my journey into owning a horse of my very own!