Childhood Memories: The Horse Years: UPDATED

Welcome BookRiot Readers!

Everyone have a look at Bookriot’s great post “15 Equestrians Pick the Best Books for Young Horse Lovers.”

KingWind
King of the Wind was one of the few horse novels I enjoyed as a child. I liked nonfiction horse books best. Three generations of girls in my extended family have loved this book in turn–all reading my copy which, of course, was a gift from my Arabian-loving Dad.

My early life in the 1960s involved horses–we weren’t saturated with Disney Princesses back then so could chose anything to enjoy. It was  a simpler time.  Not only did I sleep with my two stuffed horses, Smokey and Little Joe, (who were tragically lost in our last move–50 years of faithful friendship accidentally gone to Goodwill and probably a dumpster) but also the real, live, shovel-up after kind. And there was only one breed–Arabians. My dad read one type of literature: The Arabian Horse News and the Arabian Horse World. Okay, he also read the Western Horseman, but I suspect that was more because a friend of Mom’s from high school did a lot of their cover art.  My Dad started with a mysterious “Paint” horse whose stable-name was Beauty. She was bred to an Arab Stallion and begat Missy. Missy was the true love of Dad’s life and was to have been the first of many horses on his Arabian horse farm. Another day I’ll write about the quest to find that farm. Today I’ll stick to the horses and what they came to be in our family.

What this meant for me was that in kindergarten and first grade a fantasy hatched, fueled not only by non-fiction horse books, not only by my Dad teaching riding and managing the horses at a summer camp, but by our attendance at Arabian horse shows whenever possible. Dad showed in halter classes for the breeder who kept our Missy.

Me on Missy in 1968 or '69. That's my great-uncle with me.
Me on Missy in 1968 or ’69. That’s my great-uncle with me.

Now if you are 6 and forced to attend all day of halter classes–a part of the horse show where nothing really happens except judging the physique of the horse you, too, would remember the expensive frozen milkshakes your mother bought you more fondly than the “action” (or lack thereof) in the show ring. Even getting to wear cowboy boots and your riding shirt (which my Mom still has) didn’t make it much more fun. But we endured it. Finally a miracle occurred. We got to watch a different class. For me it was love at first sight. I had found the “opera” of the horse show–the Native Costume Class!!

http://www.californiaarabiancostumes.com/our-costumes/ Who hand craft and sell fabulous Arabian costumes. Check them out.
Source: http://www.californiaarabiancostumes.com/our-costumes/ California Arabian Costumes who hand craft and sell fabulous Arabian costumes. Check them out.

My Mom could and did sew anything, so I decided she could sew an Arabian costume for our horse and make a similar riding costume for me and I could show in the wonderful costume class! Nothing, but nothing beat that in my imagination! My costume would naturally have to have a lot of red in it. Today I imagine those famed red velvet flocked wallpapers supposedly favored by long-ago bawdy houses probably would be roughly what I had in mind for fabric. And ball fringe. Ball fringe was essential–my costume class dream had its design roots in the 1960s after all. Ball fringe became big stuff at the end of the decade–approximately when this dream was hatching.

Little HorsemanAs I’ve written elsewhere, the Little Horseman was my all-time favorite book. I read and re-read that book, wishing I could be like Alan in the story so I’d be ready when my Mom finally had enough school dresses made for me that she could sew the fabulous native costume for me–and one for Missy, too, of course. In  6th grade best friend got to take real riding lessons. At a real stable with a tack shop that hosted the local University’s “equestrian” courses. Her lessons were just like those Alan took in the story. Never mind I was too big for storybooks–that one I still consulted frequently.

young

If A Very Young Rider  had been published back then my copy would have fallen apart from over-use the first month!  In my mind it would have been exactly like a sleep-at-home version of this Disney classic The Horsemasters. Just call me Annette, but I’d want to be in “Red Ride” in spite of any fairy tale pun.

How I wanted to take those lessons! I could see myself in my cool riding shirt with the neat little tie, and real “English” boots and real jodhpurs! I’d hang out at the stable in my cool riding clothes with my BFF and we’d be only to happy to shovel stalls or wipe down the horses after a ride or soap saddles or just about anything to be allowed in our vision of paradise. Totally To. Die. For. Needless to say, It. Did. Not. Happen. My Dad taught me all I’d ever learn about riding, plus he had a “thing” about anything exclusive like riding schools or country clubs. As a kid I figured it was because my maternal grandmother liked those things and, also, because my dad couldn’t swim very well. I was right on both counts.

Breyers like mine.
Breyers like mine.

In 1969 our horses had to be sold. We moved, made friends with horse people and kept riding. My best friend went on riding and on Facebook her brother tells me she and her son still do so, though she and I have not rekindled our childhood friendship. Eventually my Dad got to have horses again in the late 1980s until his death a decade later. My brother still has horses and is married to a serious horsewoman. They also provide horses for a camp for disabled children and help with all of the camp’s riding sessions. As for me, horses are a part of my past, though I still love them. If I ever change my mind and play the lottery and happen to win big, I’d choose to have those massive, beautiful Clydesdales. You see, I went to a horse show in the 1990s and saw a Clydesdale driving class. I was hooked. Smitten. In love. But it takes a Clydesdale-sized bank account to house, move and show those beauties. I figure it is at least a two-person operation. Maybe I’ll have a granddaughter who hates cheerleading and will need a place to stay while her sisters compete. She and I can go to Clydesdale shows together instead. Nice dream, isn’t it? Plus I could leave her my beloved Breyer horses in my will.

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7 thoughts on “Childhood Memories: The Horse Years: UPDATED

  1. sjbraun

    So interesting! I don’t think I ever knew about your love of horses (other than just bits and pieces). I can see how going to horse shows so often at such an early age would create a real love of those beautiful creatures. I loved your dreams of neat costumes — I, too, remember the ball fringe craze. I had curtains with those for a while 🙂 I am so sorry your stuffed horses got lost! Do you have a lot of Breyers? I admire those in the store sometimes. You should post about those with a picture sometime!

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    1. I have a good-sized collection for our day! No e-bay purchases of rare ones or anything like that and none bought after I quit getting them as gifts. I do sigh every year at Tractor Supply when I look at the beautifully costumed Christmas horse though. 🙂 Hint: Tractor Supply has lovely toys at Christmas time. Not the same junk as everywhere else.

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  2. Wonderful post, very enjoyable but also tear-inducing! I would love a Clydesdale, too, but I only have a small suburban garden!

    I rode aged 8 to about 12. My favourite bit was grooming the horses and riding bareback down to the paddock to turn them out at night. I didn’t like jumping and I enjoyed “dressage” though it was hard on the old ponies that didn’t like to do anything fancy.

    Cut to 25 years later, a friend had a hen night (day) that involved china painting (oh noes) and horse riding (yay) and I was surprised to learn I could still ride! Then last year I got to ride an Icelandic horse – I got a feisty one and claimed oh no, never ridden, then got up and grabbed the reins in the proper way – busted!!

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