Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Horse

Fourteen years ago this last weekend, I bought my first horse. 

I'd wanted a horse all my life.  Playing horse was my favorite childhood game as well as "riding" fences and rocks.  Every Christmas and Birthday, I specifically asked for a horse (no luck). 

As a child I chased after the trail riders who came out of the woods across from our house, screaming, "A Horse! A HORSE!!!  Can I have a ride?"  Many agreed and I rode like royalty in front of them around the neighborhood.

My parents always told the story of how I stood at the end of our driveway from dawn until dusk on one hot summer's day, rope in hand.  There was a forest fire in the mountains (about 200 miles from where we lived).  I stood at the end of our driveway waiting for a wild horse to come down the road.  If I couldn't get one for my birthday or Christmas I was going to catch my own!

As I grew up I rode all my friend's horses.  I bought books on caring for horses so I'd be prepared for the day when I finally had one of my own.

In my early twenties, just starting out in my career, I had a co-worker who needed to find a home for her horse.  We discussed my taking her young Mare.  Used for jumping, she was huge and spirited.  The idea of calling this horse my own held for about two weeks until I finally came to my senses after falling off and getting a concussion. 

The truth was as bitter as the dirt I ate that day.  I wasn't financially secure enough to have a horse and this wasn't the right horse for me.  It was one of those (logical) grown up decisions that hurt terribly.  I passed on the opportunity.

I licked my wounds.  I was lucky.  My best friend let me ride one of her horses whenever I wanted.  It was the next best thing to having a horse of my own and the hands-on experience taught me things that books didn't.  I rode that horse until he was too old to be ridden and then made weekly visits to him until the day he died.

My wanting a horse was a well meant joke in my family and also amongst my friends.  They all smiled at my passion to have a horse.  And I surely advertised my dreams and intentions to someday own a horse to anybody I met, including the man I married.

When I hit 40,  married, with a child and fully secure in my profession, I felt the clock to have my first horse ticking.  As each year came after the big-4-oh, it ticked louder.

Almost fourteen years ago to this exact date, I took a ride with a friend up in the Cascade Mountains where our cabin is located.  I rode our friend's horse, Barnie.  He was a seasoned trail horse and a joy to ride.  I recall it being a clear, crisp day.  We rode the trails above the cabins, the leaves crunching underneath our horse's feet.

After we finished I walked back to our cabin where my husband awaited me.  I recall sitting on the arm of the couch and telling him about my ride.  I still remember to this day using the word "spiritual" when I described the ride I'd just had.  I told him that it was "time".  I needed to buy a horse.  Something inside the core of me was missing without a horse in my life.

My husband was not hot on this idea.  It's not that he didn't want me to have a horse but he knew how head-strong and passionate I could be.  He was concerned about the fiscal and logistical challenges of having a horse since we didn't have a place to keep one.  He pointed out all the cons of my decision and I pointed out all the pros.  We were at a stalemate.

I returned home from the cabin and within three days had a bead on a horse for sale.  On a crisp, sunny, fall Friday afternoon I headed out to look at a horse while my husband headed out to go deer hunting for the weekend.

She was a 19-year old Quarter Horse.  The first thing that struck me was how "pretty" she was.  I walked around her, petted her, watched her go into her stall for the evening, turned around and told the owner I'd buy her.  No riding her first, no pre-purchase exam, etc.  Just as my husband knew, I was a headstrong, passionate, first-time horse buyer.  I was also as green as a young tree about purchasing a horse.

The next day the owner transported her to my sister's farm and there I was, with my first horse.  She came with a bridle and halter but no saddle.  I didn't have any feed, buckets, etc. 

My sister and I took my first and expensive trip to the feed store where I started to learn that the cheapest part of buying a horse is the initial purchase.  My sister's neighbor came over to check her out and offered to sell me a saddle. 

Here is the first picture I had of Sunshine, taken three days after I purchased her:

I was so excited to have my own horse!  I could barely sleep that first night.  I slept with the saddle next to my bed.  I kept waking up to touch it.  I loved the smell of the leather and horse on it, I still love that smell.

When my husband returned from his hunting trip that Sunday evening to find a turkey dinner cooking and a smile I couldn't keep off of my face, he knew I'd bought a horse and he was none too pleased about it.  I can't tell you how grateful I am for his acceptance of my decision; it still means the world to me.

I lucked out on my first horse purchase.  Sunshine was a healthy, well behaved horse.  She loaded like a dream, she didn't kick or bite.  Yet she was smart enough to recognize a green rider on her back and take advantage of them when she could; i.e., a typical horse.  I quickly learned that the more I felt in charge of the situation the better she'd be and we got along well.  She patiently taught me a lot.

I soon wanted her closer to our home.  I was fortunate to be able to move Sunshine next door and keep her at good friends of ours, the same place I used to ride my best friend's horse.  To walk out my backdoor and through a path in the woods to be with my horse was a dream come true.

Within a few months we had an opportunity to take care of Barnie, the horse that had moved me forward with the decision to buy a horse that crisp, fall day at the cabin.  Sunshine and Barnie immediately became best friends.  We referred to them as Ma and Pa.  That next summer we had the chance to buy Barnie.  My husband and I rode Sunshine and Barnie all over the trails around the cabin.  Horses were now a family event.

The Christmas picture we sent out that year:

Note the child (who later went on to show horses) on Barnie in tennis shoes, minus a helmet.  Note the Mom (me) on Sunshine, also in tennis shoes and no helmet. Things have sure changed in the years we've had horses.  Today nobody rides our horses without a helmet and boots.

Sunshine and I interacting at the cabin:

Sunshine hosted our daughter's birthday party: 

We've come a long way with horses since that day years ago when I bought Sunshine.  Horses prompted us to sell our home and move up into the Cascade Foothills where we found serenity and peacefulness.   We've never regretted the move and still pause in disbelief that we live in such a wonderful place.

Fourteen years ago horses came into our lives and today I still feel there is something spiritual about interacting with and riding them.  Today horses define my family and who we are. 


  1. Great story! How fortunate you were to have had horses touch your life from the time you were a youngster. I agree that it is a spiritual experience. I think my relationship with Gem has made me a better person. These animals are magical.

  2. I was 41 when I bought my first horse. She was the best, she owned me for 10 years, then i had to make that ultimate decision to put her down when she went lame in both front feet. I went almost a year without a horse but knew i needed that therapy. I now have a horse that I think will win my heart as my first horse did. Take care. Good luck horsehunting.

  3. What a great post! You certainly were lucky with your first horse. That is so wonderful! I, too, bought my first horse with a lotta wish and a big helping of luck, when I was 12. Horse fever runs in the blood forever, it seems. I'm glad your husband finally gave in.