I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Have you ever been to or participated in a competition involving horses (racing, jumping, dressage, whatever)?
It’s been a long, long, long time since I participated in a horse show, back when I was in junior high and high school during my 4-H Horse Club days. The more I think about those days, the more I think that my mother was a super-hero.
I had a gentle old sorrel mare named June that we took to these events. She was gentle until she was presented with a truck that she was supposed to get into. Then, she became the more stubborn, balky animal on the face of the earth. Looking back, I can’t say that I blame her.
My mother & I would load June into the back of our half-ton truck (with stock racks) and drive about three quarters of an hour up to the horse show site. Mom didn’t just have her hormonal teenage horse-crazy daughter along, she also had the two younger siblings. The competitions would last most of the day, then it would take almost every willing man on grounds to help us convince June to get back in the truck to go home! And June would always shift around, like she was thinking about trying to jump out of the truck, making driving difficult. And yet Mom did this for me, year after year.
I was a horse-crazy kid. I still remember the day I got my first pony, Nippy. My dad and grandpa and I had gone to the auction market, probably to sell hogs. It was always a big treat to be allowed to go—not only did I get to see all the animals, but we would get a hamburger for lunch and probably a bottle of pop for the drive home. Those are big considerations when you’re a ten year old!
When we saw the little black pony in a pen in the back of the auction, the very first thing he did was nip each of us (hence his name). I had no expectations, I just wanted to pet the pony. I was incredibly surprised and excited when my dad bid on the pony when it came up for auction! I remember that we paid $50 dollars for him and he came with a bridle. I also remember my grandpa saying he was glad that Dad had bid, because he’d been thinking about it!
Nippy & I had our struggles, but he became a devoted friend to me. He could count—when the cousins came to visit, if the line of pony riders was too long, he would be absolutely miserable to the first one or two to scare away some of the more timid kids. He also knew exactly where he could scrape off an inattentive rider (we rode him bareback). At the end of his life, he would still struggle to perform the little tricks that I’d taught him and I could get him to move when no one else could. He lived with us to the end of his life.
June was unimpressed with Nippy. He was so excited to have another horse to hang with that he came trotting up to her when she arrived on our farm. Imagine his surprise when she bit him hard and sent him running away! Eventually they reached a détante, but in the early days there was a lot of hostility.
Eventually, we had June bred and she produced a sorrel filly that we named Peaches. Photos of Peaches follow. I got to do the first bit of her training and rode her a very few times, but I had to sell her before I went to university. I haven’t been able to lay my hands on photos of Nippy or June.
A very young Peaches with one of Mom's friends
A mature Peaches, just before I had to sell her.