Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happier Things

I have not written much about my first love, horses. It’s about time I do.
I was always a horsey kid. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love them. My mom has a photo of me, perhaps at the age of 12 to 18 months, sitting atop a neighbor’s horse (the horse’s name was Sammy), holding onto the saddle horn. I have no memory of that photo.
One of my earliest memories, perhaps at the age of three, is that of me feeding a horse from our backyard in Eureka. In hindsight, that horse might actually have been a mule, but that’s of no matter. I remember waiting for that equine’s daily visits.
My first horse was a pony named Dynamite. My non-horsey dad brought him home one day while I was at dance class. I vividly remember being dropped off by the neighbor, whose daughter was my age and at that time my BFF. The gray pony was tied to the swing set in the front yard. I think my dad was busy building his pen.
Years later I learned that the pony was a stallion and probably only half-broke. My dad borrowed a saddle from one of his cousins, and the bit we used on him was a ring snaffle with no stopping power. My riding lessons consisted of being put on Dynamite’s back, and being told to kick and cluck. I am sure that he ran off with me too many times to count, straight up the hill behind our house, toward the low oak trees that grew on the property surrounding the house. I remember one time that Dynamite had done just that, and my dad was not going to climb that hill and rescue me. I was crying, kicking that little devil, trying to pull him around and point him down the hill.
There was also the time Dynamite cornered me and bit me on the shoulder, managing to get his mouth and teeth all the way around my scrawny left shoulder. Again my dad rescued me—that pony was like a pit bull, with his laws firmly locked and me screaming hysterically.
That pony was gone by the time I started kindergarten. I bought my first real horse when I was in 5th grade, with my own money earned from babysitting and working in the fields. From that time, until 1997 or so, I was owned by at least one horse.
Here I am 50 years later, horseless. So I try to live vicariously by looking at horses from afar, wishing I had a place to keep a horse, brave enough to defy my doctor who told me that horseback riding was not a good thing for a fused back.
So for today, I am sharing two images of horses that have touched me and made me miss my horses all the more. One of the photos, that of the dark bay horse, is Zenyatta, 2010’s Horse of the Year, and one of the best thoroughbred mares to grace the track. She’s only the second racehorse I have been attached to, the first being the immortal Ruffian.
We know how that ended. Zenyatta’s story is much happier—she’s recently retired and waiting to go into heat, when she will be bred for her first foal. Z’s handlers have a website for her, with a daily blog entry. It’s so sweet that her people love her so much, that she is more than a machine. Z herself has obvious personality, and I am excited to meet her first not-yet-conceived baby.
The other two photos are of a paint mare that recently went through an auction ring in New Jersey. I do not know her name. With the economy in its present slump, many well-loved horses find themselves at auction, with no buyers, and no hay at home to feed that horse anymore. This mare, said to be a family horse, lived that nightmare on Wednesday night. She ended up in a feedlot pen, that is, she was headed to slaughter in Canada. Of all the horses that ended up in pen #10, she is the first one I would have taken home.
She had until today (Saturday) to find a home, or there was a very good chance she would be headed to Canada. Last night I learned she was still there, and I just sat here by myself and cried. Not only am I on the other side of the country, I had no money to buy her or even call the sales barn and offer to pay for her food for a week, just to buy her more time.
This morning I learned that pretty paint mare been purchased and would be rescued from pen #10. It was a nice way to start my Saturday.
Even though it makes me sad, I think I will take the time to write about my horses. Now if I can find photos …


Sprocket said...

I've had a "far away" fascination with horses. They are amazing creatures.

I've ridden a few times, however, the last time I was on a horse, over 30 years ago, I was thrown off. I think it was due more to my inexperience and fear than the fault of the horse.

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