Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Life with Horses - Part 1: The Early Years

Hi Everyone, it's AgMane.  Equus deemed me worthy enough to represent him in part because of my experiences with horses.  He asked me to talk about how I got involved with them so I am taking the reins today on his blog for the first of a series of posts discussing my life with horses!

Horses have been an important part of my life for almost it's entirety (so far).  Having one of my own now has been one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had.  Someone once told me that he's given me a heart. They are probably right. But he's given me so much more than that.  But before we get to him, I want to talk a bit about how I came to enjoy the company of horses.

Horses first entered my life when I was three years old.  I suffered from social withdrawal early on as a toddler.  One of the options presented to my parents was Therapeutic Riding (hippotherapy).  I'm told that the first time i was on a horse's back my face 'lit-up' and my whole demeanor changed.  I personally remember very little about this pivotal moment as I look back on it now, but I fully recognize its in shaping who I am today.  (As an aside, I find it pretty incredible that such a seemingly small decision on my parents part has had such a huge effect on the rest of my life.)

I've been riding fairly regularly ever since those early days.  In high school I rode at the Therapeutic barn while I volunteered there.  They were nice enough to let me keep taking lessons there even though I had kind of grown out of the need for true therapeutic riding.  Riding just once a week left me wanting more - I wanted to see horses more often, to work with them, groom them, etc.  To that end, I befriended an older man that was within walking distance of my house.  He owned two horses, Holly and Penny.  They were both older mares that he needed some help caring for (he had broken his back the previous winter).  I offered to help him out so he let me groom and ride whenever.  I spent many days and nights there working and riding for fun and trying to teach Penny something.  She was a stubborn old Appaloosa though, and I never had a ton of luck.  Still, I liked her a lot.  I was very sad when I came home from college one year and was unable to find her.  The man had given her away but he didn't know to whom.  He had a speech impediment too, which made him hard to understand.  I imagine that by now she has likely passed away, but I'd still like to know what happened to her.  I hope her life ended well.  I'm just pained to know I didn't get to say goodbye.

Penny with Holly in the background.
Penny and one of her friends after Holly passed away.  I think his name was Bleu.

Toward the end of high school we got a new trainer at the barn.  My interest in horses was waning a bit.  I credit her, and her horse, Tigger, with keeping me involved in riding.  I liked to say he had ADHD because he would just do his own thing whenever he felt like it while you rode him.  That is, if he decided he wanted to trot or do something different, he'd do it, and you just kinda had to go with it.  He was also an incredibly capable horse.  Very athletic.  He could stick his nose into his chest like a carousel horse and carry himself, collected, whereever he wanted to.  He also had a lot of movement both side to side and forward and backwards.  Tigger was an excellent teacher, and he helped introduce me to the more technical side of riding: Bending, suppleness, collection, etc.  He was a horse who was incredibly sensitive.  He'd do exactly what you asked, but you had to know what to ask for and how to ask for it to get him to do it.  He was a true joy to ride.  I wish I could go back and ride him again.  He's probably nearly 15-20 years old now.  I'm not sure how old he was when I took the picture below, but I took it in 2004 and he was likely at least 5 years old then.

During college I rode kind of intermittently.  I was on the Equestrian team at my school but that was ultimately unfulfilling.  I rode at a private barn I really didn't like.  The conditions they kept their horses in was really poor.  No grass, just little muck pits that they lived in.  (I called animal control once and asked them to come out but they said they couldn't because I wasn't alleging actual abuse.)  Also there was an expectation that I would show in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) shows in my area.  Those shows were terrible.  You normally had to get up at 4am on a Saturday to drive to the show, be stuck there all day, and you met your horse for the first time about 5 minutes before the class started.  And the horses worked multiple classes during the day.  A number of times I got a horse that decided he was done right before I got on him.  Those were tough rides and not at all fulfilling.  Ultimately I never got much out of riding in college except a nice break from studying and a chance to be around horses.  That was certainly a welcome interlude in the constant grind of the semester.

At the beginning of my junior year (I think) I was lucky enough to meet a student at school who's family had a small boarding farm fairly close to school.  She had two horses of her own: a paint mare named Rebel and a paint gelding named Okemo.  In exchange for helping out occasionally she let me ride them.  Okemo was a quiet "all around" sort of horse.  Rebel was a young, almost green, mare.  She was a bit stocky but fast and probably could have made for an excellent little barrel horse.    I've since lost touch with the girl so I'm not sure what they are doing now.


Between this and the riding team I managed to get my horse fix during college.  I did, however, find my interest waning a bit.  The early years of my riding were kinda like this, my interest ebbed and flowed. That's a far cry from where I am now, but this is to be expected when one is young and they are exploring what piques their interest.

This more or less closes the chapter on my early life with horses.  There are so many other horses that touched my heart and meant something to me for one reason or another, but I'll stop here because this is a pretty long wall of text already.  Next time I'll talk about where my life with horses has taken me since college.

Thanks for reading!


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