When I was very small - less than two years old - my family moved next door to a stable. It wasn't a very nice stable - one of those that rented horses out by the hour to anyone, even if they couldn't ride, and where all the riders wanted to do was run the horses. But it was what I had, and I took full advantage. I started riding when I was very young, and got my first horse when I was eight. The horse wasn't very well-trained and completely inappropriate for a young girl - I got my first bad concussion when she bucked me off, so I didn't have her long - I named her Molasses Bay (Mo for short):
Across the gravel road from us was a large field where a herd of ponies ran loose. My best friend and I, when we were about 10 years old, would cobble together bridles from discarded bits and pieces of leather and bent bits that had been thrown away - there was a junk pile in the field - catch two ponies and go riding. No one knew or cared that we were doing this. We used to race the ponies down the driveway that's just on the other side of the fence in the photo:
My best friend and I worked for free every weekend at the not-very-nice stable, taking groups of riders out on rides around the property. We got to ride lots of horses. And we also rode in the town's Fourth of July parade - I'm the one with long blonde hair on the big gray horse - I'm about 12 in these photos - the outfits, footwear, bad equitation and odd tack are notable (but I didn't care), and it was well before I ever wore a helmet:
We moved right after that and I figured out a way to keep riding - it meant my parents driving miles out in the country every weekend. I also went to a dude ranch in Arizona one New Year's when I was 13 - here's a photo of me with the head wrangler:
I had a series of horses in my teens, but then was fortunate to find my first heart horse. I called her Snow (Snow's Ghost), and she was a grade cremello, blue-eyed QH mare of indeterminate age and prior training. She promptly came down with strangles after I got her, but she recovered and we had a few lovely years together. She was a wise and willing mare, and would do just about anything I asked of her, including jumping, which I don't think she'd ever done before. She must have had some training in her past, because she did amazing sliding stops and rollbacks. I loved her dearly and we had a very close bond. Please ignore the bad tack and bad equitation and the lack of a helmet - I never had any instruction in riding at all until I went to college and made do with books and experience:
She didn't have the best conformation, but that didn't matter to either of us:
This is my favorite photo of her - it really captures her intelligent and sweet personality:
I got to ride some other horses at the place Snow was boarded - I believe this is an appendix QH - I spent every free minute at the barn (and look at that primitive helmet - a steel cap - no lining - with velvet over the top):
We moved when I was 17 and my parents sold Snow - no one asked my opinion. I didn't own a horse of my own again for many years. In college, I did ride - 7 to 10 hours a week - the school had a stable of lesson horses of all sorts. And we had a drill team, and occasional performances and horse shows - often on parents' weekends or during commencement week.
Here is Kale, a TB I often rode and a real sweetheart:
And Sundown, a draft cross - that year we did drill team with no stirrups:
And another little high-strung mare I rode in a bareback class at the year-end show at college:
The clothes aren't much better - it is the 70s after all - but my equitation is improving a bit with some instruction. I'm struck by how braced many of the horses look - they'd been trained to carry themselves poorly with their heads up and necks inverted, and I didn't know any better.
After college, and graduate school, and working, and marriage, I had two daughters, and they decided they should ride horses - I rode a few times when we went to dude ranches, and then when my daughters started taking lessons in the mid-90s, almost 20 years after I'd stopped riding after college, one thing led to another and in 1997 I got Noble - some of you may remember him - he died in 2010 at the good old age of 30. Norman the pony came into our life at about the same time, and he's still with us and enjoying his retirement.
And then there were more horses . . . and more horses . . .
So, if you're a horse person, I guess you're always a horse person . . .