by Mary Paine
I have mixed feelings about my very first horse. I was twelve years old and my family just couldn't afford to get me my own horse. They were able to pay for two lessons a week and I was a barn rat for extra rides and time with the horses. I saved for what seemed like forever to be able to lease a horse for the winter season (this particular barn only ran it's lesson program three seasons). I dreamed of leasing Ritchie, a lovely aged Thoroughbred Hunter.
Excited beyond belief, I went with my mother, cash in hand, to the owner of the facility to lease Ritchie. When we got there she told us there had been some sort of mix-up and Ritchie had already been leased to another little girl. My heart was broken. I sat there with my fistful of money and she explained that Colonel, another horse in the barn, was available for lease, but she warned me he wasn't the same horse I remembered from last year.
Being twelve years old and accompanied by my mom, who was a lovely lady who had never been on the back of a horse in her life, I clutched at this straw and resolutely thrust her warning out of my mind. I assured her that I would absolutely love to lease Colonel and handed over my money.
I was in heaven. I ran out to the stable and petted Colonel all over, cooing over him and telling him all about the wonderful things we were going to do together. That evening my dad found an old wooden trunk that would serve as a tack box. I painted it powder blue (a definite tween color) and used my remaining savings for brushes, etc. for the box. My dad helped me haul my brand new (to me) tack box down to the stable and I was ready to go.
I saddled Colonel and off we went to the outdoor ring. We had a terrific ride together and in a delighted haze I asked someone to open the gate for us to exit. Here is where everything changed. The minute the gate was open Colonel took off at a full gallop toward the barn. Unfortunately, I had never been taught what to do in this situation so I hung on for dear life until Colonel decided to come to a halt. We repeated this process daily until one day I was leading him and he took off on me. I was holding the lead rope correctly, but the force with which he took off fractured my left pinky, which is crooked to this day.
I loved Colonel with all my heart, even through my tears in the ER. Many years later when I bought Spencer, my first horse, I felt great joy, but there is something about that first experience that still tugs at my heart. Sadness that Ritchie and I never had that magical winter together and sorrow that my memories of Colonel are tainted with that touch of fear.
My first equine love was a double-edged sword, but I like to think I learned a lot from the experience - about horses and about life.
All the best,