Posts Tagged ‘horseback riding’

CHEYENNE

June 8, 2018

Joe and I began looking for a horse we could afford. limiting our search to local trades and newspapers and word of mouth. We wanted a bombproof horse Joe and our kids could ride, but a horse that had enough spirit for me to really enjoy riding. We soon learned how hard it is now to find a horse that you can trust. I don’t know how many horses we investigated, but they were all nervous. Most had disappointed their owners, who had hoped to show them. The two Quarter Horses that were close to what we were looking for cost much more than we could afford.

Finally, one evening we drove to a farm to look at a horse of undetermined breeds. He was a sweetheart and calm enough for anyone to ride. I admit I feared he might be too calm for me. But I wanted a safe horse for our family. We decided to sleep on it. When we woke up, we agreed that it was a good horse and in our price range. We called the owners–the horse was sold. “But we have another horse you might want to look at,” said the owner. We sped to the farm, determined not to be outdone by another horse seeker. Running in the pasture was a beautiful Quarter Horse Paint. The mare was in a small herd, and they all charged in to be fed. Sure, she bucked at the other horses on that brisk morning–why not? And when I asked to ride her bareback and she wanted to run with me, the owner said she’d never been ridden bareback and the other horses were upsetting her. And besides, her ground manners were so friendly. And we didn’t want to lose out again.

We bought Cheyenne. There’s a reason I’ve included two pictures of her. Working with Cheyenne on the ground was a pleasure. She was a cuddler (picture on the left) and so sweet. She loved to be scratched and brushed, and she’d follow me anywhere. The picture on the right shows the “other Cheyenne,” the horse she turned into with a rider on her back. Can you see the tension? Her eyes weren’t actually glowing like they appear in that picture, but she’d get very wide-eyed. Right away I loved riding the spirited, ready-to-run Cheyenne, but she was far from bombproof and definitely not a kid’s or beginner’s horse. The kids could sit in a saddle while I led her. Joe, however, had no desire to ride the “wild” horse. Eventually, our oldest daughter could ride her, but I never relaxed when she did. I’ve always loved riding Cheyenne . . .except one day in early March, the first hint of Spring after a too-long winter. I should have lunged Cheyenne and taken it slowly, but I couldn’t stop myself. I hopped on her bareback. She wasn’t ready for me, and she bucked and reared until I slid off her backside in mid-buck. Her hooves connected, twice, and left me with two cracked ribs and a trip to the ER. Totally my fault, though Joe still hasn’t forgiven her.

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TOWACO

May 29, 2018

2 Towaco

Misty couldn’t live forever, but it was such a sad day when I lost that horse. People think horses are tough and hardy, and in many ways they are. But they’re also fragile. Their leg bones are slender for the weight they carry. And their stomachs are designed in such a way that they can’t throw up. People, dogs, cats, and most animals can vomit, a skill that comes in handy if something bad is swallowed. But horses can’t get rid of poison or toxic materials once swallowed. That’s what happened to Misty. Builders working around our barn left pipe insulation on the ground, and Misty ate some while I was at school. It was quick, final, and it took me a long time to get over the loss.

And yet, this kind, sweet Appaloosa and I found each other. Towaco at two years old did everything I asked him to do. He never got spooked or shied at anything. He was fun to ride bareback in the pasture, on trails, on back roads, everywhere. His ground manners couldn’t have been better. He liked to put his lovely head over my shoulder for a big neck hug. When I blew into his nostrils, he always blew back, honoring me with his horse greeting. Towaco was my companion through high school and college–until I left Missouri for Texas and my first real job. Then I had to admit it wasn’t fair to leave that wonderful horse without a rider, and it wasn’t fair to leave my parents with the feeding and cleaning duties. But Towaco still holds a place in my heart, and I’m a big Appy lover. Towaco is an ongoing horse character in one of my horse series. Can anybody remember which series and who owns Towaco?

 

LANCER

May 16, 2018

lancer (3)

My sister, Maureen, continued her quest for the perfect tall, skinny horse. Instead of merely asking around or checking local want ads and for sale items, we ventured to a couple of stables. Maureen took one look at the tall, skinny American Saddle Horse in this picture, and “Lancer” joined our family. Lancer was a fine-looking horse, all right. He even went forward when asked, unlike her previous mount, Butch. Maureen didn’t want to ride him bareback, but loved transitioning to English. We both loved riding Lancer English, with the lighter saddle, the double reins, jodhpurs, English riding boots, even a bowler hat.

Still, something was missing, and I think I felt it right away. Lancer was a good horse, but not a friend, not like Sugar and Misty. He was hard to catch and didn’t seem to enjoy rides on our country roads. I’m not sure how long Lancer lasted. I don’t think he was high-stepping enough for Maureen. She still loved horses, but she had lots of other interests too. And by this time, she was in high school and well on her way to becoming homecoming queen. She knew her days were numbered for acquiring the horse of her dreams–tall, skinny, high-stepping, 3-gaited, or maybe 5-gaited, flaxen mane and tail. And so the search went on . . . .

I’ve written about Lancer in several books, though always with a different name. He reminds me of Bold Beauty in the original Winnie series. If any readers can think of “fancy” horses in my other horse books, I’d love for you to refresh my memory.

BEST (HORSE) FRIEND EVER

May 8, 2018

My Misty (2)

Although Misty doesn’t look his best here, he was always his best. And he looks a lot better than this Dandi anyway, if you ask me. I remember the day Dad took this picture. I’d rushed home from school to see Misty. As usual, my friend met me at the fence and put his head in my lap for a snuggle and a good scratching. Later, I’m sure I brushed that mud from his winter coat and went for a ride, bareback. We likely stayed out until supper. We would have stayed out longer if it hadn’t been for that annoying activity called homework.

In the Winnie the Horse Gentler: The Early Years series, Winnie forms a deep friendship with a big ol’ plow horse named Chief. Winnie often climbs the top rung of the fence so Chief will join her and put his head in her lap for a snuggle and a good scratch. Sound familiar?

I hope I never took Misty for granted. I remember being grateful for the gift of Misty’s friendship. But I didn’t know then that all good gifts come from God. And it was only later that I came to understand friendship with God through Christ. I’m still thankful for Misty. And now I’m not only thankful, but I know the One I’m thanking. I know Who deserves my thanks.

SUGAR THE SUPER HORSE

April 24, 2018

Bareback on Sugar

I want to pay a final tribute to my first horse, Sugar. She put up with me when I was just beginning to ride and to understand horses. She taught me about friendship and loyalty, and I credit her with my lifelong love of horses. Sugar is the Pinto I write about in the first chapter of Horse Dreams, the first book in the Backyard Horses series, the shaggy mare that becomes a best friend. She probably made an appearance or two in the Winnie the Horse Gentler and Horsefeathers! series, but I’d have to look that one up. (Or, if any of my wonderful readers would like to inform me, that would be great. Many of my horse-loving readers know the details of those books better than I do!)

I remember sitting by Sugar’s side on that last day. Her chest barely moved, and I watched it to make sure it did. Her breath was raspy, but she didn’t seem to be in pain. I stayed out in the pen with her well after dark, missing supper, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I returned to the house and curled up on the couch. I pretended to be asleep, but minutes later I heard my sister ask Mom, “Should we wake her up?” And Mom answered, “No. It will keep.” And I knew Sugar was gone.

But not completely. That night I broke out a fresh Big Chief tablet and started writing down everything Sugar and I had ever done together–the morning rides before school, the “explores” after school, the races with Maureen and Rocket, the Cowboys and Indians games with neighbors and cousins. When I ran out of stories, I made up more. I created “Sugar the Wonder Horse,” followed by the sequel, “Sugar the Super Horse.” So maybe that first horse taught me even more than I thought.

A COLT IS BORN!

April 16, 2018

Angel MMPAngel birth

On the day Rocket had her foal, my sister, Maureen, (in the foreground) and I (the braided wonder on the other end) were granted special permission to stay home from school. Sarah, my best friend, (short hair, middle) took the bus to our house after school to witness the big event. We’d had many dogs give birth. Midge the kinda-terrier graced us with 9 puppies every year, puppies that proved harder and harder to give away. But Rocket’s foal was our first. The birth seemed miraculous to me then, and I’m convinced to this day that all births are miracles. Within minutes, the colt was standing on wobbly legs, his curly tail twitching. After hours of rejecting each other’s names for the nameless foal, we settled on Angel. I was thinking of Angel when I wrote Gift Horse and Friendly Foal in the Winnie the Horse Gentler original series.

HORSE PALS?

April 13, 2018

Sug Rocket Dan Mo

This foursome–Dandi, Sugar, Rocket, and Maureen–made some fearsome rides in Hamilton, Missouri. Note the sleepy horses and the flashy dressers in their striped shirts, cardigans, and barrettes? We usually rode bareback, though our parents insisted we use bridles (at least when we rode outside the pasture). Hamilton offered us country dirt roads and rarely a car to get in our way.

Maureen and I got along very well for sisters, and you might assume the same could be said of Rocket and Sugar. You would be wrong. Sugar owned us before Rocket came along, and she never let any of us forget that. Poor Rocket took a couple of kicks from Sugar before realizing who was boss. When Sugar died (more on that sad day in the next blog), she lay on the ground while the vet came and we did all we could as Rocket looked on. Then miraculously, Sugar got to her feet. Ears flat back, she walked up to Rocket and kicked her. One last time.

ROCKET HORSE

April 10, 2018

Rocket

Once I took over Sugar the Pinto, my big sister, Maureen, lobbied my parents to get another horse so we could ride together. They found a gentle Buckskin mare, and Maureen named her Rocket, though I don’t remember speed as one of her best qualities. What I do remember is how hard she was to catch when she was in the pasture. After a while, we discovered that we’d have better luck catching her if we played “hard to get” ourselves. One of us would act as if she were headed for Sugar, or for an invisible horse if Sugar wasn’t around. Only when we got close enough, would we gently reach for her halter. I used this little “trick” in several Winnie the Horse Gentler books and in the first book of Backyard Horses. That reminds me that I just might use it in Book 3 of the upcoming prequel series: Winnie: The Early Years.

In this photo, Rocket is eating out of her food box in our backyard pen. And it looks like Maureen needs to get out the brushes. Often, we’d bring along the transistor radio and tune to Kansas City’s WHB station to listen to the Top Forty songs of the week while we groomed our Top Two horses.

My Best Friend–SUGAR

April 6, 2018

Bareback on Sugar

Good ol’ Sugar was my best friend at this age. I told the Pinto everything. She listened to my dreams of becoming a horse trainer (like Winnie the Horse Gentler). She didn’t mind if I griped about a bad day at school or too much homework. She always made me feel like she’d been waiting for me to get home and ride her. Now that’s friendship. If you were a horse, would you want people to sit on your back and tell you where to go? If you were as big as a horse, would you even let a little person sit on you? I think not.

Top Five Lessons I learned from Sugar:  1) Sometimes, the best thing a friend can do is listen. 2) It’s a great gift to let people believe you’re really glad to see them . . . even if you’re not. 3) Love can be sacrificial–like carrying someone to a place she’d like to go. 4) Take the time to really get to know a friend. And be loyal. 5) When you fall off, get right back on. Bonus lesson: God created an amazing animal in the horse. Imagine coming up with a design for such a beautiful creature, one that’s soft, but strong, giving and kind, with a nicker and neigh, two of the best sounds on earth, and the best smell in the entire world! It will be awesome to see Sugar again in heaven.

SUGAR–HORSE #1

April 3, 2018

sugar-3

Yep–this is me at 3 years old, riding Sugar, my first horse, a Pinto of unknown origins. To those who know me, it’s no secret that I like horses. I mean, I love horses and always have. I love to ride. But I also love to simply brush or be with a horse, to feel that fuzzy winter coat, or the sleek summer sheen. I love the smell of horse. Seriously, someone should bottle that scent and sell it as perfume. And I love to write about horses.

Right now I’m working on writing a prequel series to Winnie the Horse Gentler. Writing about this younger character, who understands (and feels understood by) horses, keeps bringing up my own early horse memories. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of those and introducing you to the horses I’ve loved. Sugar was the nearly perfect first, a bomb-proof horse, just above 14.2 hands, not a pony. My big sister, Maureen, rode her first, until I took over. I remember being confined to ride in our little pen by the house and how awesome it was when I got the freedom to ride Sugar up and down our road, then around the block, then all over Hamilton, Missouri. I got stepped on, and I fell off–always my fault. Once, near Main Street, she slipped on the ice, and I fell directly under her. Sugar stopped and stood still, with me huddled between all four hooves. Then we waited until somebody gave me a lift back up. You never forget your first.