11/20/2009

Hold Your Horses



I have always loved horses. When I was nine years old, my parents sent me to Pioneer Ranch Camp near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. It offered  swimming, crafts, archery, and horse back riding. I was so excited! First day of arrival we were given our horses...and lo and behold, there before me stood my mighty steed - Crash. Who names a mighty steed Crash? I won't belabor the fact that I hated camp with a vengeance, was desperately homesick, and never did make friends with the bow legged, sway backed, big bellied old nag they had saddled me with! Crash's sole mission at camp was to unseat me. And this she did successfully at least twice a day.

I couldn't wait to get home.
Oddly enough, I stuck Crash in a forgetaboutit compartment with all the other hateful old nags, and  retained my love of horses. At university I was fortunate to have a friend who had a boyfriend who had a father who had money...and lots of it. And he also had Tennessee Walkers that needed regular exercise. These are magnificent animals with five gaits- walk, trot, canter, gallop and a special fast walk that makes them excellent  horses that you can ride all day without having your innards completely jiggled away. They're used by the judges in competitive  bird-dog trials. I never owned one, but I decided upon graduation that once I was settled I would have  my own horse some day.
That day eventually arrived, and I was so excited! Perhaps I was guilty of putting the cart before the horse, as I really didn't know much about quarter (or whole or half) horses, and when I met this crusty old horse trader (who I must say, was a bit of a horse's arse),  he promised me that Cinder was an excellent horse...maybe a little long in the tooth, but this was a one horse town, and I was champing at the bit. Cinder came home with me. I lived in an old, square timber cottage at the time. Cinder lived, uh, outside. As we didn't have a barn or anything. What was I thinking??



This horse of a different colour was dapple gray and as gentle as a lamb with any child that came near  her. A two year old child could sit on her back for hours, and never, ever be in danger. But an adult? Hah! Memories of Crash, and then some! Cinder simply would not submit, nor go gently anywhere if a human weighing more than 50 lbs was on her back. This deplorable situation lasted about a month. As fall was approaching, it became imperative to find her a barn to live in for the winter, and a local farmer who just happened to love horses, offered  to board Cinder. He took her out into the bush almost daily, had her hitched to a wagon that we used for sleigh rides, and just generally gave her a life she loved.  Come spring, rather than pay for her room and board, I got off my high horse, and gave her to him.
I still  love of horses, but now that means riding them on occasion, and taking pictures whenever I happen upon them. Like the wild horses of Assateague, that we saw this past October in Virginia, and the draft horses that I found just down the road last weekend.


Beautiful.

7 comments:

mogrenewed said...

Lovely photos. I've never heard of a Tennessee walker and must look to see if there are any you tube videos of one.

The Early Birder said...

Wonderful & interesting post Susan.
Never owned one or ridden one but love to photograph them. FAB

Julie said...

What an engrossing story, Susan. And so very vivid.

I, too, love horses - all domesticated animals, really. But I love the smell of horses and the way they nuzzle around your body.

I had a horse called Tony during my pre-teen years. He bucked me off once and my father rode him and rode him until he was covered with lather. He never bucked again.

Susan said...

I think everyone has at least one horse story in them...they're such a part of our collective history, our beasts of burden, our noble steeds, our trusty stallions, and yes, old gray mares.

diane said...

Hi! I came over from Julie's blog. I have enjoyed browsing through your blog with its beautiful (cold) photos. I noticed in your profile we have some common interests. Yes, I have a horse story too. Stayed over at a friends house (I was about 10) It was my first time on a horse. I fell off and was knocked unconcious and suffered concussion. Every time I was sick my poor friend got a hiding from her mum.(She blamed my friend because she had hit the horse to make it go)Today I like horses but not to ride.

Tony said...

Beautiful shots of the horses, especially the one by the creek.

Nature ID said...

Love, love your story! Thank you for sharing. I wanted a horse as a young girl. My parents wisely signed me up for horse lessons first to let me figure out whether I'd be up for the responsibility. Between you me, I think they paid my trainer extra to show me the dirty and monotonous side of cleaning out stables to discourage me. I last rode a horse on a beach in New Zealand - it was fantastic!