Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Horses

So – do you all remember your very first horse? The one you fell head-over-heels, achingly in love with, at least until you became a better rider and moved on?

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.


KB said...

My first horse wasn't mine, officially, but we belonged to each other anyway. His name was Scrap Iron, and he was an ornery old paint horse who hated riders that tried to "cowboy" him. He had bucked off and injured a young man shortly before I started riding. I rode him constantly, bareback, and he would do his very best to stay under me. My best friend and I would ride down through a grove of trees, where the farmer who owned the horses couldn't see us, and we'd jump and stand up on their backs, and climb trees off of them. Those horses absolutely made my childhood. When my mom finally agreed I could have a horse of my own, the farmer wouldn't sell Scrap Iron to me, so I bought another horse, but he was never really mine in the way that Scrap Iron was.

Linda Benson said...

Scrap Iron. Oh gosh, love that name ;-)

Susan said...

First horses, what a way to get choked up. Great story!

OneDandyHorse said...

My first horse was Dandy and I only bought her two years ago. She was an unbroke total b*tch! I trained her from the ground up, she is a very reliable horse and I will advance in her training as we move on.

The first horse I rode was truly a diamond! She was sweet and made sure we stayed on. Penny was a jewel of a horse and I don't think I will ever come accross a horse that is THAT safe ever again. All of my childhood was spent on Penny, from the time I was 6 years old up to my 13th birthday. After that, Penny was sold and I never saw her again, which broke my heart! she would be 34 years old this year... I don't know if she is still alive...

Laura Crum said...

I did a couple of recent posts on my first horse, an ornery bay gelding named Jackson. (see "One Horse's Story" and "What Do We Owe Them?" in January). The first horse who taught me to ride, Lad, is also featured in one of my January posts ("An Old Cowboy and a Blaze-faced Horse). I would say the first horse who was ever really "mine" in an emotional sense, was Burt, the bay gelding I bought when I was twenty-one and he was five and kept until his death at thirty-five years of age (from a stroke). It was Burt who taught me about keeping the ones who help us and doing right by them, and I will be keeping my son's first horse, Henry, until his death, just as I kept our pony, Toby.

Maryannwrites said...

Really enjoying the first-horse stories. My first horse was a saddlebred that I bought on time. I worked for a riding stable and Turk was one of the owner's horses. We bonded in the summer that I worked there and when the stable closed down, I asked the owner if I could buy Turk. I didn't have enough money, so he let me make monthly payments.
Turk could go English or Western and was an amazing horse. Hated that I had to sell him a couple of years later, but the young girl who bought him loved him as much as I did.

Topaz said...

My first horse was a bay trakehner mare named Pieta. She was 9, I was 12. A friend and I had been riding a lady's horses and her son threatened to kill them so she sold them to us in a hurry. I got Pieta for $10 along with her tack, buckets, brushes and a bag of grain.

Pie was not a beginner's horse, that's for sure. She had been over trained in flying lead changes and couldn't stay on the same lead for more than a couple of strides. She also liked to buck, sometimes I'd stay on, sometimes I didn't. Lots and lots of work went into making her better and I was able to successfully show her as a hunter. We weren't the world's greatest horse and rider pair, but we had some good times and I loved her a lot. I gave her away after I went to boarding school and think of her often.

Linda Benson said...

Thanks so much for sharing your stories about your first horses. They really do stick in your mind, don't they? Probably because we learned so much from them. Horses can be the very best teachers.

3ChunkyMonkies said...

My parents made me save up for my first horse, too. Just a phase....I worked for 2 years at the lesson barn and picked up every possible odd job. I was 16, she was 9. Fifteen hundred dollars seemed like a fortune.

I ended up with a cranky nut of a horse. She'd go anywhere or do anything, eventually. It wasn't always pretty. I was too young and stupid to realize I was young and stupid.

Prissy is now 23 and is still the love of my life. She has two friends to keep her company. I'd trust her with my life. She's taken care of me for almost 15 years.

Linda Benson said...

3 Chunks - I read your blog about Prissy. I'm glad she is doing better, and here's wishing her a speedy recovery. Sounds like you love her a lot.