|Midnight, a "pony camp" pony, circa 1976. The world's best pony.|
After Midnight came adolescence.
For some reason, time and money for riding lessons went away the year that I turned 13, although I'm sure I begged and pleaded most ungraciously. My parents were certain that I would "discover boys"...and I did. I would rather have stuck with horses, to tell the truth. I'm pretty sure that my parents would have slept better during my teen years if they'd kept driving me to riding lessons, but they didn't know that at the time. My teen years were not graceful, and I shall not post any photos of them here. Trust me: there were no horses, and it wasn't pretty.
In my mid-twenties, I started working for a friend-of-a-friend cleaning stalls and stuff, just for the chance to ride. That's where I met Bo.
|Bo. 16.1 hands high, Alpha all the way. The world's best best boss mare.|
The friend who owned Bo couldn't help noticing things about my life. For example, she noticed that I had a husband, and that I didn't have a horse. My friend facilitated the swap.
The husband turned out to be terrified of horses, and meanwhile, I was learning lessons from Bo about being superior. Good stuff to know.
In the meantime, there was a new horse in my life:
|Story, me, and Merridog in the foothills, circa 1999|
"That one," she said, meaning Story, "won't leave you broken and bleeding on the side of a mountain."
Although my friend is a dedicated dressage rider, she recognized my need to get out and explore trails with a horse. She was determined to find a horse for me who had a fair amount of "taking care" instinct, rather than a lot of fancy training. The fact that Story was a harness horse who hadn't really carried a rider didn't bother my friend, and so it didn't bother me. I had read The Black Stallion a million times, and therefore knew how to break a horse to saddle. Right?
As it turned out, "breaking" Story to saddle consisted of putting a saddle on her, and climbing aboard. The mare looked over her shoulder at me, with an obvious "Okay, now what?" expression on her face. We walked and trotted around the pasture that first day. No helmet, no spotter, nothing. Sigh. Don't try this at home.
|Story, the world's best mare.|
The gelding had a perfectly lovely Arabian registered name, but I never once called him by it. To me, he was and always will be, The Toad.
|Toad on the endurance trail, circa 2001.|
Note: no feet on the ground, reins clenched tightly and about 8 inches long.
Famous last words.
The Toad had exactly one-half of a brain. For eight years I rode him, over 2,000 endurance miles, waiting for him to grow the rest of his brain. It never happened.
|The Toad on the endurance trail, circa 2004.|
Reins still very short.
Toad taught me a lot, especially when it comes to keeping my butt in the saddle and my head off the ground.
Jim showed up in my life right before I started working with The Toad. He started by riding borrowed horses:
|Jim and Blaze, circa 2001? possibly earlier|
|Jim and Hana, circa 2003. Hmm. Those reins are kinda tight.|
|Jim and Hana, circa 2008. Clearly nobody in this photo is worried about the reins.|
|Fiddle, December 2006 with me and Luna|
Fiddle had been adopted from GP earlier in the year, but her adopter had then developed some scary symptoms that turned out to be brain cancer. She had to bring Fee back to GP...but it was December. There was no room at GP. That's when they remembered about Story, and that's when they called me.
"Take her for the winter," they told me. "If you like her, keep her. If not, bring her back in the spring when we've got some room here."
Fiddle was the equine equivalent of an angry toddler when I first met her. She was a biter and a kicker. Her first response to any request was "*rude word deleted* NO!"
I gave The Toad back to his owner after a last season with him, and started concentrating my energy on this badly-behaved new mare. Even when she was still glow-in-the-dark green and still an "angry toddler" she was more trustworthy than Toad ever was.
|Fiddle circa 2008 at the Standardbred Games Day in British Columbia.|
Long floppy reins and no feet on the ground.
|Fiddle and me at the Mt Adams 50-miler, 2011|
I'm still learning.
|Fiddle: The world's best horse.|