"Smile! It keeps your brain from falling out when you're frustrated!" - Clinton Anderson (Downunder Horsemanship)

"They say boys never grow up, their toys just get bigger. I say I never grew up, my 'My Little Ponies' just got bigger!" - Me

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Road to Horse Ownership

My road to finally having a horse to call my own was a long one. But I met many wonderful horses and horse people along the way that made me the horse woman I am today!  Get ready, this is going to be a long one!!!!

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 Honey, the 14.2 hand dunalino broodmare. Sweetest little mare, was broke but hardly ridden, didn't know much, hated a bit so was only ridden in a hackamore. While she was no show horse, she made a nice little trail horse, and packed me around all over their farm. And also taught me how to tuck and roll when getting bucked off. Somehow I never learned the let go of the reins part though, and I always ended up sitting there on the ground, holding the reins, and staring up at a completely innocent looking Honey. Then there was the day the hackamore broke while cantering, and there I sit on Honey's back with the throat latch and browband being my only connection to her head, and Honey freaked out by this thing dangling around under her face. Somehow we managed to survive, got stopped, discovered fixing the hackamore was hopeless, and returned to the barn with a rein tied around her muzzle and only one rein to steer with.

There was Moonbeam, the 16 hand palomino mare, who did a little bit of everything, but wasn't really great at anything, but loved to jump, and would jump anything that you pointed her at, didn't matter how high. I was in my glory, since I was loving riding english and jumping at that time! Beam also taught me what the superman dismount was, exiting stage left when a deer ran out in front of us one day while galloping down the lane. While she went left, I kept going straight, staring at the ground as I flew, thinking "Oh this is going to hurt!" Hurt it did, and Beam came over to check on me, but when I finally got my wind back and climbed to my feet, she high tailed it for home before I could catch her, and left me to walk the mile back to the barn.

There was Star, the unbroke 15 hand palomino mare that I just loved and wanted to ride so bad. Eventually I was allowed to work with her, and started my first horse under saddle. She knew nothing, I knew some, and we learned a lot together. I rode that mare all over the place! There was a promise to keep her till I could afford to have a horse of my own. I was crushed when she was sold, but once a horse is broke and trained to trail ride, money talks I guess. I still miss her. Was the closest I had to a horse of my own at the time.
There was Mariah, the extremely green broke 16 hand cremello mare. I got to put some miles on her as well. And helped her find a new home with a friend of mine after she slipped on ice and hit her head and started going blind.

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.

And there were the foals. Mazie, the cute little palomino that taught me just how bad those baby feet can hurt when she nailed me full force in the stomach with one back foot. Rosebud, the sweet little chestnut born with a crooked leg that spent her first few months in a soft cast to correct the problem. And several others!

Rosie and her little cast.
I owe a lot to the Edingtons. Their generosity and horses gave me a very solid start in the horse world! So many wonderful memories from that time, spanning through my high school and college years!

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.

Fairfield Fancy
When I wasn't able to ride Fancy anymore, the equestrian team went looking for a horse for me. Enter Macho, my team coaches 15 hand chestnut Morgan gelding who was such a goof and could be quite the fireball! Macho did saddle seat very well. He hated the burlap bag full of empty cans used to drag in trail class, so to fire him up before a saddle seat class, my coach and her daughter found it necessary to show him the bag of cans and give it a good rattle just before our class. Macho turned into a fireball and I went in the ring hanging on for dear life. We always placed well. Macho jumped too. He hated jumping, but he'd do it. And he usually flew over every jump like it was twice as high as it really was. We also did hunt seat, western, and bareback. He was such a character and so much fun to ride.

Macho was already spoken for the following year for the 4-H season, so my coach talked one of her boarders into letting me ride Chaz, a beautiful 15 hand chestnut Arabian stallion. Chaz and I got along so well, he was promptly gelded so I could show him! While Chaz had some formal western pleasure training and did pretty well western, he picked up english really fast, and wasn't too bad at jumping, at home any way, in the show ring, he seemed to forget how to jump! But we did well together that 4-H season. I loved this horse, by far the smartest and best tempered Arabian I have ever ridden or been around! And so willing to learn.  Chaz was such a pleasure to work with!  I would have loved to have that horse!
Perfection At Las  (aka Chaz)
College and co-op definitely limited my horse time. Especially while living in Detroit 6 months out of the year during work terms. But even living down there, I managed to find myself a horse fix. The Detroit Polo Club was offering a polo clinic, so off I went to learn about polo. After the clinic, I was paired with one of the members of the polo club as a mentor if I wanted to continue learning. Of course I did! I got lucky and was able to exercise a couple of his horses, a big OTTB named Tom and a beautiful Argentine named Picasa, as well as practice my stick and ball on them. Now that was fun, and Tom and Picasa were so paitent with me and my mistakes, and my missing the ball and having to circle back around to try again, and my thumping them with the mallet once in a while by accident. God I felt terrible when that happened! While I greatly enjoyed my time riding Tom and Picasa and whacking the ball around, one practice game of polo was enough to make me decide polo was not the sport for me, and was a little harder on the horses then I cared for.

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!


  1. What a cool first post...I had no idea of your history. Quite honestly, I would have NEVER had the guts to go through some of those experiences and come out the other side still wanting to ride. Really cool pictures as well-I can't wait to read the rest:)

  2. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing, Amanda!

  3. I just found you - welcome to the horse blogging world! It was fun to read your history with horses - you've done a lot! I love the pictures of all the horses - I wish I had more of the horses I rode when I was growing up.

  4. My goodness! What experiences you have had. Welcome to the blog world! Looking forward to reading about more of your adventures.

  5. I really enjoyed your blog entry, and look forward to those that will follow.