I remember mine. He was a nondescript bay gelding and I named him Copper.
Growing up, I was the epitome of the horse crazy girl, reading everything I could get my hands on about horses, thinking, dreaming, and practically living and breathing horses. We lived out in the country, but my mother was a city girl and my father was busy working to support our family, and horses were big expensive creatures and a daughter could get hurt.
But I could not get over my dream so finally, to placate me, or maybe just to stop my begging, my parents made me a deal -if I could save enough money to buy my own horse, I could have one. (Hint: this technique still works with almost all children and teenagers, to find out how bad they really want something.) Anyway, prices of horses have varied over the years, but as I recall, the amount needed to buy a pretty decent kid’s horse back in those days was about $600.
Hearing the offer, I went to work. I babysat, pulled weeds, took care of neighbor’s animals - whatever a young teenager without a car could do. And I saved every penny. In about two years, when I was fifteen years old, I had the $600, and my parents, bless their hearts, made good on their promise. We set out to look for a very safe first horse.
And such horses, as you know, are scarce as hen’s teeth, probably because people generally hang on to good, reliable horses. Or they pass them on to friends and other horse people.
But after several faulty starts and one horse that didn’t pass a vet check, we finally found just the right one. He was probably 12-15 years old, a bright bay, common headed, straight shouldered, short pasterned, high-withered, sloping crouped, dead-slow gelding and I was TOTALLY in love.
On the day we went to get Copper, my parents let me skip school. Oh Happy Day! My parents even pitched in $75 for a good used saddle. Copper had the number one important trait for a first horse. He was lazy. And a horse that wants to go slow builds confidence in a rider. Because I certainly didn’t know to ride. I was entirely self taught. I remember riding Copper out in the pasture the very first time, with the old cowboy we bought him from riding alongside, giving me pointers. “Keep your heels down,” he said in a gruff voice, “and put more weight down through your stirrups.” And I did.
Once I got him home, I rode Copper everywhere, and he never batted an eye at anything. And even though I had a saddle, I loved to ride bareback. I remember hanging on to Copper’s mane for dear life, trying to sit his bone-jarring, teeth-in-your-eyeballs trot, kicking his sides, trying to get him into a lope. And that big smile when he finally did it! Surely that’s where the phrase flying by the seat of your pants comes from.
Because I did develop a seat from that old rough-riding horse. And I shortly outgrew him. He was a wonderful horse to begin on, but soon I wanted something with nicer gaits and a bit more get-up-and-go, and so I sold him, and progressed to a better-looking, more responsive horse.
I’ve often wondered what ever happened to Copper, and how many other kids he taught how to ride. Because you never really forget you very first love, do you?
So – tell us what you remember about your First Horse.