Friday, July 13, 2012

dream horses and future mentors

A few recent comments from fellow riders here had me wondering about your mounts and stories? How many CAF readers out there have a horse they ride or drive with? Any of you wish you did? What is your horse's name, age, and breed? How about folks who used to ride, I bet you have a tale or two to tell?

Share your horse tales here. I'd like to learn more about you fellow equestrians, ropers and teamsters out there. Share your town and state, if you don't mind. And those of you brand new to horses, check and see if any fellow readers are in your area. Maybe you could set up a visit via email and ask questions and learn from other Antlers out there? The internet is how Patty and Steele found me!


Anonymous elsie said...

I used to ride and show all the time as a kid. I rode and showed green ponies for a barn in the county outside Charlottesville, VA. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I fall in love with some great ponies, meet some really tough, smart and hardworking women, but I also gained a lot of confidence. I fell off many a pony and I dust those stories off when I find myself running out of good sledding wreck accounts. The memories are very fond ones.

July 13, 2012 at 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been riding other people's horses off and on for 20 years. It was more will than skill that kept me going until I recently had a bad fall that might have been prevented. Not sure I want to keep trying to ride or drive but would love to be around horse and donkeys here in midcoast maine

July 13, 2012 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Great idea!!! I live in Milford, NH, I have been riding for the past year at a small stable in Mason, NH (Hurricane Hills Stables My instructor Kim, is so great and easy going, it is all about enjoying yourself and learning in a noncompetitive, safe way. I ride a 14 hand, 19 year old pinto gelding named Bandit. Bandit is puppy dog sweet but has allergies to...hay, so on his wheezy days I ride Geronimo, the youngest 24 year old pony I have ever seen! There is a picture of me on my first ride last year under the 'Our Students' page of my instructor's site.

Riding lets me experience a different way of seeing the world. Being forced to focus on myself and horse does not allow for any other worries or cares. It can take all I have some days to sit correctly, with shoulders back, feet and back straight, calves not thighs firmly placed on my ride, with loose but firm hands and on top of it all to look where I am going.

The first six months of riding did not come easy, my feet wouldn't stay in the stirups, my butt was all over the place in a trot and I was scared of an unscheduled dismount. Almost six months from there, my instructor told me last week she is seeing a different rider in me today and is so proud of me. The first time I cantered intentionally by myself I could not get the grin off of my face for a week! Riding has made me proud of my commitment to myself and the horse. Riding Bandit each week has allowed me to know his antics and trust him. When I take that first mount I know I am in the right place, it is almost as though the sun shines a bit brighter, I am focused and happy. There is nothing in this world like the feeling of working with Bandit, asking him to trust me and carry me for a ride.

Right now I do not have plans to own or lease my own horse... one day though it is inevitable. My farm is out there waiting for me with a few horse stalls, chicken coop and wood stove.

July 13, 2012 at 9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an adult beginner and I'm scared to death of riding now after I had a bad fall (not his fault--100% mine--loose girth and the saddle slipped). I broke several major bones and the recovery was tough. It was my first fall, too, which now has something in me programmed to fear falling so much that I can't enjoy riding. Any suggestions to help me regain my confidence? I used to love riding but now I dread it. I spend time with my beautiful horse every day and have a trainer ride him 4x a week. I love being around horses and horsey people. Is it weird to own this magnificent horse but never ride him myself?

July 13, 2012 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Jenetta said...

I grew up riding horses for 4-H. I'd love to own a pony again some day for my little girl to learn how to ride. Riding horses taught me patience, love of animals and nature, and to slow down and really look at the scenery. I think trail riding actually got me into hiking once I didn't have a horse to cart me around. :)
I love seeing pictures of Merlin, he's such a handsome fellow!
I lived in Utah when I rode horses and now I live in Washington State.

July 13, 2012 at 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 37" driving mini and cart that I take out on trails and on the road. Will be showing in local driving shows next year. Also have an ex amish draft horse (percheron), that trail rides and does light fieldwork in harness. Located near Gettysburg, PA

July 13, 2012 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Alyssa said...

I took lessons as a kid and just after college... at finally, at 32, after moving from the Chicago suburbs to the Seacoast here in New Hampshire, I started my horse search. My husband & I bought Finn the 10-year old Haflinger - who rides and drives, and a few days later, someone at our barn offered us Moxie (for free!), a 7 year old draft/paint cross. We feel like we just had twins! Learning the horse-ownership ropes with these two has been such a great learning experience. We'd love to learn how to drive Finn (sleighrides in winter!), and anticipate moving them home to our little farm here in a few months.

July 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I started out at age 3 on a show donkey named Jenny. My very first horse was a former racehorse named Timbuckstoo aka Timmy. I did equestrian shows with him and have to say, we were quite a well matched pair. Now I have an old quarterhorse mare named Chessie who I don't get to ride nearly enough. Her barnmate is my mom's new horse, another ex racehorse (this makes the 4th exracer we've had) named Abby who I secretly covet. There's just something about galloping up the pasture hill that heals all wrongs. Chessie doesn't gallop, at most we get a fast trot or a canter that resembles the travel methods of Pepe Le Pew. Since reading your blog and your adventures in the equine world, you've made me start planning some more saddle time and reminding me how much I love it and miss it, so thank you!

July 13, 2012 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Momma Storer said...

As a little girl I was infatuated with horses. When I was six my mother found a horse camp in the area and called the barn. She asked if I would me made to clean out stalls, clean tack, clean the horses, feed the horses, and understand all the hard work that went into having an equine animal. She was hoping to dissuade me from my love. The plan backfired and I fell head over heels for horses.
I rode at the barn for a years before getting a wonderful old Morgan gelding name Keno. I practiced and practiced and practiced until I could mount him bareback from the ground. I hardly ever saddled him and had many a wonderful adventure with him in the 5 acres he lived in. As he got older and I found I was spending less time with him, I gave him to a friend who was just learning.
I also owned a beautiful Arabian mare name Zora that could take her own bridle off while you were on her. She was sweet as a button though and I loved her, despite falling off of her more times than all other horses combined. I learned to land on my feet it happened so much. I gave her to a friend who wanted a jumping mare when I got married and am now horse-less. With a baby I don't have time for a horse. But I do miss that sweet dusty smell of the neck under the mane.

July 13, 2012 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger MIB said...

I had some really-not-great riding experiences as a kid, enough to convince me I wasn't a "horse person" and would never understand horses. I had no interest in riding or owning a horse.

Fast-forward about 25 years, and my husband decided he wanted to work draft horses as part of our homestead. Our first couple attempts weren't good matches, but we now have a pair of Brabant crosses that we've been driving out on the road for errands over the past six months.

More importantly for me, getting to know the five drafts we've had has made me a LOT more comfortable around horses--funny, right? I mean, they're so HUGE--since their gentle personalities have given me the courage to start to learn how to communicate with them. Of course, some tips from a local Natural Horsemanship trainer helped, too!

And a couple months ago, well, when looking for a standard-size buggy horse, I actually fell in love with a Morgan gelding--so much so that I "renamed" him Valentine when I got him (his registered name is Black Willow Vigil, and the woman who owned him had been calling him Virgil). I've been stopping at his stable several times a week to groom him and do some "leading for respect." He's just finished up his "refresher" training to ride and drive, and I'm due to have my first riding lesson on him this Sunday. I'm really excited to start a new phase of partnership with him, but please wish me luck!!

July 13, 2012 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

"Chessie doesn't gallop, at most we get a fast trot or a canter that resembles the travel methods of Pepe Le Pew."

I spit out my morning tea reading this!!!

July 13, 2012 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Annon: I understand, I really do. I didn't suffer such a fall but I can say with 100% honesty every time I get on merlin I am a little scared. It's okay to be scared! But what isn't okay is to expect the worst every time, it's not fair to either of you.

I say start small, set small small goals. When you are ready, with your trainer there, get dressed up to ride and simply mount the horse sit on him while the trainer holds his head. Feel his neck with your hands, breathe deep, relax yourself. Just sit there a few minutes and dismount. There's no rush. Do this a few days, and when you are ready, ask the trainer to lead him by a lead line while you just sit in the saddle with the reins in hand. Small circles in a safe place.

Small steps are what I'd suggest. I had a scary encounter this morning with Merlin, he got scared of what I think was a bear and bucked and kicked and wouldn't listen to a thing I asked. It was a disaster, but two days ago it was perfect. We all have off days, but I will sure as hell get back on him in the morning tomorrow, and try again. And if I can't handle him, I'll get a trainer who can. I'm watching these chris cox dvd's a reader from OK leant me and learning a lot there as well.

We'll get through it, do not give up!

July 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

and it isn't weird! IF you want to ride him, you will.

July 13, 2012 at 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon the adult beginning who took a bad fall - You have to get back on the horse. That's the only way to get your confidence back. And I speak from personal experience. I was thrown when I was 2 years old when the horse I was on (led by my uncle) reared up when a semi blew its horn (and yes I remember it). I was nearly thrown again at 8. I was bitten at 10. Kicked several times. I nearly fell off when a horse jumped a creek instead of wading through it like I expected. Recently, I watched the horse my sister was riding just take off with her on it (thankfully she's a MUCH better rider than I). Horses STILL make me nervous after 24 years of riding. And I'm sure they will until I can own a horse of my own who I can get to know and ride regularly. But I make a point to ride when I can (my husband's family has a couple, so I ride them when we visit). But you have to get back on. The only way to get over your fear is to ride.

That being said, you don't have to go out and ride all day right away. Baby steps. Get up on the horse while your training holds him and have her walk you around the ring. Ride at a walk in a controlled environment. Build up to feeling good again on your horse's back. But it's a complete waste for you to have a horse and never ride it. And you'll regret it later (you sound like you do now!).

Get back on the horse. Check the girth better! You MUST get back on the horse.
-Kelley in MT

July 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Elizabeth, that place sounds great! I know what that canter smile feels like!

Love these stories!

July 13, 2012 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Anyone out there who has advice or suggestions, please share them here, for other commentors who have questions or asking advice.

July 13, 2012 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

That was great Kelley! maybe my baby steps were too small, I suggested she just sit on him again to start!

July 13, 2012 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

My sister and I grew up under the bellies of Belgian workhorses. My dad pulled timber to support the family for a while when we were young. We did the pulling circuit for a while locally, but Dad's heart just wasn't in it.
My sister and I pooled together our pennies when we were 9 and 6 respectively, I think, and soon we were gotten a pony. Dad wasn't the world's best judge of horses though, and so we got Star, the obstinate pony who knew the 9 and 6 year old couldn't get him to do anything he didn't want to do. Then Lippy, the arabX retired school horse who was bitter, burned out and couldn't be tied, or she'd try to pull the barn down around your ears. Next Camelot, the quarter horse who I'm sure was a fine horse, but little sister and I had long grown tired of constantly fighting with horses that were, in hindsight, probably unsuitable for us.
We never lost the love for being around them - she still works with them. Me, I've gone farther away, but one day I hope to have a place where I can keep a big old Belgian

July 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Anon- I had a time frame of about 2 years where I had several falls while trail riding. It got so bad I actually searched out what "soft spots" to land. Riding wasn't fun and I was extremely nervous. I began taking lessons again and started out on an old, gentle schooling horse until I regained my confidence. I've had falls since and I try to make them funny/adventurous stories. I figure you can trip and fall walking on stairs, getting in the tub and stepping off your porch so I can't let the fear dictate what I can do. Good luck! You can do it, just take your time!

For any beginners (or accomplished) riders, I recommend the book Happy Horsemanship. It's geared towards younger people, but it has straight forward information given in an amusing way. I still look through it as an adult.

Jenna- sorry about the tea :) but it is totally true, Chessie and I bounce through the field- and I have to make sure my jaw is locked in place

July 13, 2012 at 10:46 AM  
Anonymous cow girl said...

I was a horse-less horse-crazy kid growing up on the farm; snuck onto the neighbor's big QH/draft horse without bridle or saddle when I was 10...ended up I bought him. ...rode bareback mostly for years, learned to ride English/Western...taught him and I to jump.

When I was out of high school, before college, I attended an intense horse school and was immersed in cross country, dressage, hunt seat, stable management, Western pleasure (yuck), even saddle seat. Of course I loved the jumping and cross-country the was an awesome time that changed my life. Then during college I taught riding at rich-kid summer camps...

In college I bought a young QH...awesome fellow. We jumped, rode miles and miles, did a little cross-country, chased cows, and played polo. He was in his late 30s when he died. Now I have a TB that is beautiful, but quite a shaker and a mover!

Merlin is a very special-looking two make a pretty good couple.

July 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was an adult when I started riding and that was over 30 years ago. I currently have a 6 yr old paint gelding who is over 16 hands and very athletic. He was "rescued" from a paint breeder as a weanling who thought he was too plain, and hard to handle. They planned to take him to an auction. I think he would have killed himself, he was a very fearful foal.

Anyway, he's now huge, ride-able and a joy to have around. He will gallop to me when I go out and call him. He mostly isn't a pain in my butt anymore, but he has quite the personality and enjoys annoying his 3 pasture-mates, much like Jasper, but a lot bigger.

For the anon who doesn't ride their horse anymore, do you have someone who can ride him for you? It can really help if you watch someone ride your horse, you can see if there are any problems, etc. It also helps to ride a quiet lesson horse who can help you with confidence. A lot of riding is learning to feel the movement of the horse, until it feels like second nature. And don't forget to check that girth every time you get on.

My horse's name is Cowboy, and he is on the left in my Avatar. His mother is on the right, we rescued her too, two years after him, when she kicked their stud and failed to produce another foal.

July 13, 2012 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger HotFlashHomestead said...

I owned a Morab (half Morgan, half Arab) mare for many years back in my 30's. The one thing I was always told was that when a horse spooks and you lose your seat, it's not unusual for the horse to bolt back to the barn, even if its several miles away. Well, one day it happened. The newspaper boy threw a paper out the window while I was riding my horse down the road and the next thing I knew I was waking up, flat on my back on the roadside. I had hit my head and was apparently knocked out for a few minutes (some passers by stopped, which is how I knew this). But the first things I saw were the blue sky and my mare's concerned nose in my face. She spooked, but apparently when she saw me on the ground she returned and stood steadfast by my side until I woke up.

The two things I learned that day were that no other animal was ever going to be as loyal as my beloved horse, and that you must always wear a helmet, even if you ride western equitation where it's not required (and in many cases, is slightly looked down on). It turns out I had a serious concussion that could have killed me, and had I been wearing a helmet I would probably have only had a bruised ego, not a bruised brain case.

July 13, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger asddfkjd said...

I have been reading your blog for a while and your horse posts are definitely my favorites. I'm a long-time rider that started as a child at a hunter-jumper barn here in North Carolina, where I was essentially worked like a slave but learned so much. In the early 1990s, when I was about nine years old, the barn owner had me holding teaser mares and checking stallion semen for viability under a microscope (she had a Thoroughbred breeding operation). One day she showed me how to vaccinate a horse, then handed me a bucket of syringes and vial of vaccine and sent me off by myself to do the entire barn - I was probably ten. I think it's interesting how children brought up around horses are expected to pull their weight and do a lot of supposedly "adult" tasks - she taught all of us barn rats how to do a lot of things that I think today people would be horrified to have children do. I had an absolute beast of a large pony who lived to terrify me, but, whoah, did he teach me a lot. I sometimes joke that no horse can frighten me now because I was frightened to the point of no return as a child by this pony and nothing could be as bad as he was.

I progressed to some limited A-circuit hunter showing as a teenager (I never had a hunter horse that was consistent enough to compete at the upper levels at that time) then rode on the equestrian team at UNC-Chapel Hill and did IHSA competition. One day when I was in college my Mom said, "You know, western pleasure looks fun" so we bought a western pleasure show horse and did AQHA horse shows for 8 years. I was top ten at the Congress in 2004 and had a very successful showing career with my horse, Zippos Texas TwoStep, which was a real accomplishment for me since I had always wanted to show at the higher levels. But, having grown up jumping, I got a little bored with the western riding and returned back to my hunter jumper roots in 2008, returning to ride with my college instructor. I started foxhunting, with my husband, in 2010 and having done a little bit of everything in the horse world, hunting is definitely at the top of my list. There's nothing like hearing the hounds open up on a hot line and galloping after them across beautiful countryside, jumping coops and walls as you go. It's an adrenaline rush. We keep our two hunt horses at home - our 16.2hh Percheron-Thoroughbred cross gelding who is built for the hunt field at 1550 pounds and our smaller Quarter Horse mare that started life as a working cattle horse in Oklahoma (talk about a wide-spanning career she's had!). My Mom's old QH show mare is also at home right now, having just foaled in March and her colt will be here until he's weaned. My show horse is currently leased by a youth and he's actively competiting with her on the AQHA circuit right now.

Horse can be a trial and a frustration. They seem to always have an injury (or be attempting suicide in some way), they can be extraordinary money pits, they can break your heart in so many ways and you can have some real "come to Jesus" moments with them, but I doubt I'll ever be without them.

July 13, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

I've been riding horses for ten years now, and have been training them for six of those years. :) I'm a barrel racer who has always wanted to learn how to do english riding, and often times get the feeling of being caught between both worlds. I love the wildness of the western rodeos, but dressage has always intrigued me, and cross country just about makes me swoon. ;) I mostly ride Quarter Horses, but I've ridden some nice arabs, TBs, Appaloosas and various crosses. I use Parrelli natural training methods and LOVE it!!

July 13, 2012 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ive just started fulfilling my lifelong dream to ride. Wednesday I had my first lesson aboard a paint mare named Katie who is 15.2 hh and I think 12 years old. I'm riding at a barn called Hummingbird Hill just east of Orangeville ON, where I live.

July 13, 2012 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger 2houndnight said...

Hi Jenna, my horses' name is Sheikh Bryn-Hammal (he's Arabian) he is 27 years old, bay with a white swirl on his forehead, and he was born at my feet when I was a senior in high school. We have been together pretty much all our lives.
My family did not have an interest in horses or the funds for them, but I was drawn daily to a horse barn down the street (which I now manage and my horse still resides there) and hung around absorbing and getting in the way until someone put me to work. I and several other girls exchanged work for riding time and lessons (we called it "barn ratting", I don't know what they call it now, but I'm sure you can still find plenty of teen age girls hanging around barns mooning over horses all over America)
Originally Sheikh was in my care as was his mother, but he was given to me when the owner sold the mare. I can not tell you how fortunate and thankful I am for that opportunity.
He has been with me through all of life's important stages, school, college, my own place, marriage, divorce, the passing of my parents, marriage again and motherhood.
I trained him myself (and he trained me) and he has carried me over hill and dale for the past 24 years (I didn't get on his back until he was 3). We both have a bit of gray now and are a bit heavier, wiser and not quite as fast as we were, but still surefooted and out there climbing our little mountain and riding the trails. We have had so many adventures where we have completely trusted and relied on each other that we are a true team. The length time spent together has made our communication with each other effortless and automatic. I can call his name and he will lift his head, whinny, and come running and I'll never tire of experiencing that. I trust him to carry my 4 year old son.
Sheikh will be with me until the end of his days which, God willing, are still a far ways off. He is the only horse I've owned and has more earned his passage to comfortable retirement when we can no longer ride in the woods and the fields together.
There is so much to our story, so many years, that I can't possibly share all of it but this gives you an idea of how powerful the relationship between horse and human can be....

July 13, 2012 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger NancyDe said...

I just lost my "lifetime" horse last week. It's a grief. I still have a horse that was frightened and badly handled as a youngster that I am slowly working with. I doubt he'll ever be completely sane, but I am still hoping....because a life without horses would be no life. I live near Hilo, HI.

July 13, 2012 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I grew up riding hunter and jumper ponies at a stable in Gettysburg PA I was a city kid who worked at this show stable in order to ride the ponies, retrain them and then take them to the big shows all over the East Coast(to advertise them for resale). What a true blessing for a kid of a single parent who could not afford a horse or pony for her child. The time of my many truly wonderful equine teachers...far too many to mention. I grew to love ponies...we got many in for retraining at the stable. I was short and quite thin so I was assigned to ride them and retrain them. I had quite a few unscheduled dismounts...but wow, did I learn a great deal! Once you gain their trust and respect, ponies will give you their heart and jump the moon if you ask.

So fast forward to today...I have 5 ponies; Beauty and son Billy (welsh ponies) Lil Miss shetland pony and Gabby and Grace shetland sisters. All our ponies have a story and were rescued in some form or fashion. And we are passionate about driving! WE do Arena driving trials and hope to do our first combined driving event (CDE) this year! You can check out my website if you'd like...stories are shared there...

I have really enjoyed reading your journey with your ponies Jenna...I can't wait till you drive Merlin...what a pony!

July 13, 2012 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 13, 2012 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

I grew up on a farm in Iowa and was lucky enough to have horses ever since I remember. I was pretty obsessed as a kid (even ran around on four legs), which still comes up at family gatherings.

When I was 18, I went to a small college and through a friend, was introduced to the world of dressage and English. Total mind blow. I grew up riding but with little to no formal instruction on anything. Thought that I was pretty damn good too until I entered this new world.

Throughout college I would take lessons from my friend when able (I studied abroad 3 semesters) and after graduation, I worked for a time in a big stable.

Then I moved to China. No horses there except the big tattooed one on my back. Lived there for two years and they were some of the best of my life but there was a hole.

After leaving China, a few things happened and I ended up back in the States, attending grad school. No time and money meant that I didn't ride for those two years. But I never gave up my dream that someday, I would get back into riding.

Graduation came, I moved to Spain and began my search. I thought that it would take ages to find the perfect horse but then..... Wolken. He was more than I could afford but somehow I've made it work.

He's a nine-year old, 17-hand, chestnut Hanovarian and he's perfect for me. He's slightly aloof, very intelligent, very patient and is willing to do most anything. I use him primarily for dressage but have also jumped him (80cm) and we go on regular trail rides together. We even earned a 1st place ribbon at an even this spring.

I look forward to developing and learning from him for many more years.

July 13, 2012 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

I grew up on a farm in Iowa and was lucky enough to have horses ever since I remember. I was pretty obsessed as a kid (even ran around on four legs), which still comes up at family gatherings.

When I was 18, I went to a small college and through a friend, was introduced to the world of dressage and English. Total mind blow. I grew up riding but with little to no formal instruction on anything. Thought that I was pretty damn good too until I entered this new world.

Throughout college I would take lessons from my friend when able (I studied abroad 3 semesters) and after graduation, I worked for a time in a big stable.

Then I moved to China. No horses there except the big tattooed one on my back. Lived there for two years and they were some of the best of my life but there was a hole.

After leaving China, a few things happened and I ended up back in the States, attending grad school. No time and money meant that I didn't ride for those two years. But I never gave up my dream that someday, I would get back into riding.

Graduation came, I moved to Spain and began my search. I thought that it would take ages to find the perfect horse but then..... Wolken. He was more than I could afford but somehow I've made it work.

He's a nine-year old, 17-hand, chestnut Hanovarian and he's perfect for me. He's slightly aloof, very intelligent, very patient and is willing to do most anything. I use him primarily for dressage but have also jumped him (80cm) and we go on regular trail rides together. We even earned a 1st place ribbon at an even this spring.

I look forward to developing and learning from him for many more years.

July 13, 2012 at 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A cautionary tale of how NOT to get a horse:

Like many little girls, I was horse-crazy, I read absolutely anything I could get my hands on about riding and care of horses, and badly wanted a horse. I was so consistent with my desire that when I hit 10 or 11, my parents bought me a horse.

At that point, I had been on a handful of guided trail rides with rental stables. Never a riding lesson. My father bought me a hefty Western saddle, which I was not strong enough to lift on, so I rode bareback.

My horse got my number very quickly. He began to throw me off on our long rides through the country, and then go racing back to the boarding stable where I kept him (over quite busy roads).

After maybe 5 times of this, I refused to ride, and they sold the horse.

It was a miracle that I was not hurt, or a driver hurt, or the horse hurt. Also, it was a painful life lesson (as I interpreted it at the time) that I failed at something I wanted very much.

Now I realize that it was exceedingly foolish of my parents, and that they set me up for failure. But I still am afraid of horses!

Parents, never do this to your children (or yourselves!) Set them up for success, not failure!

Nancy in Phoenix Arizona

July 13, 2012 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger admin said...

@Anon…yes, keep climbing on, even if it’s to just sit there or ride once around the pasture. I don’t know a soul alive who rides who hasn’t fallen off and it’s nothing to be ashamed of…even the trepidation you’re feeling. Eventually, {and it doesn’t matter how long it takes} you’ll want to stay on a little longer here and there…then you’ll be off to the races. Wishing you and your horse well.

July 13, 2012 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger admin said...

Great reading fellow horse lover stories…thanks Jenna.

Have one horse right now…Gypsy {a.k.a. Poco Sonrisa} a sorrel Quarter Horse. She’s 14 now. I bought her at 5 months, trained her, and worked my way through college on her along the Missouri River in South Dakota, and then supplemented my teaching income with her in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, and then back in South Dakota as ranch help. I know every inch of her…could recognize her blindfolded just by touch—she’s the best and will do anything I ask her to. Knew how to ride from an early age, but really learned the essence of it after getting two mustangs to train when I was 14--always been too foolhardy to have any fear {good and a bad thing!}, but that’s when I fell in love with horses during that experience that was pretty raw. A neighbor rancher helped me with them here and there with advice and then it’s been horses ever since. Owned up to 12 horses at a time over the years training them for ranch work and for the high school and college rodeo scene, but Gypsy’s always been the one I keep. I’ve never had patience for showing, although I did some 4-H stuff while still in high school and some other competitions as an adult…maybe down the line I might get into the western workhorse competitions or cutting again, but what I really love is just hanging out and riding for just the fun of it, or doing handy work here and there, or training a young horse up working on it daily. Right now Gypsy and I are staying a spell in Arizona, but we’re looking to move back north next year where there’s more room to breathe, and I’m already planning on expanding the herd once again…can’t wait.

July 13, 2012 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was a trail guide for a stable in the heart of St. Louis MO (literally minutes from Lambert airport). It has been there close to 70 years. We got horses from the auctions that the owner thought would work and rode and trained them to where an 8 year old could ride them. In college I worked at a trail ride place for a year and bought my old lead horse - a percheron, quarter horse named Bill. After that I worked a short time at a dressage/hunter jumper barn, mostly mucking stalls but eventually turned into a groom for one of the trainers. Then I went back to the origenal barn near the airport to work for the owner's son in his show barn (Paint horses Western and English pleasure). Helped manage the barn and start some colts. I have since been away from horses for several years but I am now looking to get some land and start using a horse to help tend it.

July 13, 2012 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I own a "small" hobby farm with a cow, pig and chickens for food. A decent size garden and three belgian draft horses. We ride and drive our horses, we have used them to plow and cultivate the community garden as well. Hooves and Hounds Farm Maine

July 13, 2012 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous cow girl said...

I posted this earlier, but it did not show up, so forgive me if it replicates itself:

Here's my unsolicitated advice for the anon who had a bad fall:
Jenna's thought of sitting on the horse is an excellent start. Have another horse-person holding the horse (not tied). Next start exercises on the standing horse: round-the-worlds, head-to-mane, head-to-tail, touch left hand to right toe, etc. If you don't know these basics, get someone who does, because form with these is important and beneficial. Get your balance back doing these. Then do them at a walk with someone leading the horse. Ride with your eyes closed. Do these bareback and with an English saddle with irons removed. Do them all summer..all year..until your feel confident. It is worth it.

July 13, 2012 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger pawsfurme said...

I've had VERY little riding experience in my 30 years (not for a lack of wanting), but my dream horse is a Gypsy Vanner for riding and of these days!

July 13, 2012 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger Lindy and Paul said...

I followed my love of horses to Kentucky from Ohio, and ended up marrying a great guy with a farm... it wasn't long before we had a few horses (we'd both ridden when we were younger), including an off the track thoroughbred for me. Then kids came along and I thought my riding days were over... until our daughter got interested as a young teen. Now we have 3 horses again, (one for me, my husband, and daughter), and we trail ride all over Kentucky and some in Tennessee. Nothing compares to trail riding for relaxation for me, and our Rocky Mountain horses are bred just for that- they are calm but intrepid and have amazingly smooth gaits! Also, not so big (not so far to fall!) I feel so blessed to have grown up with some exposure to horses, and hope that they will be a part of my life for a looonggg time. You can read a few stories of our trail exploits at

July 13, 2012 at 7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenna,

I have come to your blog thru Jon Katz and have been reading for a few months now and really love following your brave story. I am really a country girl at heart but live in a suburb of Chicago! I have a registered Morgan horse named Bebop who is now 22 and I have owned him since he was 4. He lives in a fantastic stable about an hour from me, but it is located in some beautiful country. I trained him in dressage, but he is now mainly a pleasure and trail horse. He has the best personality and is really just like a big dog, he has always been the barn favorite wherever we have been! I don't go to church, but I feel my time spent on my horse is my time to commune with and nurture my spirit!

Thank you for the blog and sharing your life and stories, you have a terrific voice and I will continue to follow!


July 13, 2012 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger deodar said...

My dad put me on a horse when I was about 6 and I believe my mom rued that action for the rest of her life! I often rode my uncle's standarbred after my cousins lost interest. When my sister married when I was 17 they bought a place in the country and I got my first horse, a TB names Velvet. I'm 59 now and have had at least one horse since then including a half Arab gelding born in my back yard, trained and ridden only by me til I lost him to colic when he was 27 1/2 yrs old, about broke my heart. I now have Sally, a sorrel Rocky Mtn mare and Ember a chocolate/flax Kentucky Mtn mare. I have them here at home in SE Wi. and we mostly ride the local farm fields and side roads. I do believe even if I get to the point where I'm physically unable to rid (horrors!) I will always have a horse, I find such peace in just being near them.

July 13, 2012 at 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

I took riding lessons during childhood for about 8 summers. I wanted a horse at home, but my mother was not willing. I had no experience with horses until almost 20 years later, when my husband and I adopted 3 Norwegian Fjords. Come to find out, one of them was pregnant, so as newbie horse owners we also experienced foaling before we had even had the horses for a year! What an amazing experience - everything went well, but I wouldn't suggest it for new horse owners - very stressful! We have done some groundwork training with them, had a few lessons two summers ago, and this year we are sending one of them to board for 30 days intensive training in a couple of months (along with weekly lessons for me : ) We've had the horses for 4 years now, and it will be great to actually be able to go on trail rides with two of them by the end of the summer. Just taking care of them and working with them has been a joy, can't wait to get on the trails! And yes, I agree with your previous post, some days are better than others!

July 13, 2012 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Melleah said...

Hello from Central Michigan!
My love of horses started when I was three and my mom took me to the neighbor's, and I got to sit on his horse, Sugar. The neighbor's daughter used to babysit me, and one of my fondest memories is sitting in front of her in the saddle, holding the reins, and cantering the horse in circles. I started taking riding lessons on Saddlebreds when I was eight, and rode/showed in the novice classes for 10 years, until I went to college. I had some bad experiences (horse running away, not-so-nice people), got busy with work and school, and didn't touch a horse for a decade. Then my husband and I moved to Michigan, and our neighbor invited us out to his farm for a sleigh ride with his team of Belgian draft horses.
To make a long story short, through the help of wonderful neighbors (kind of like Patty :-) ), we now have 9 acres of pasture and hayfields, and I finally bought my first horse two weeks ago. She's a six-year old Belgian Draft, and she is trained to drive (and has some riding experience), and I may try some farming with her in the future.
She's already tested me a couple of times which was nerve-racking, but I think I'm really going to enjoy the journey with her.
Jenna-thank you for being so honest in all of your posts about Merlin. You have inspired me show some courage when I'm working with my 1700 lbs. girl when she's showing some attitude-it's not important if you feel scared, it's important that you are brave!

July 13, 2012 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hello! My name is Lisa and I live outside of Waterville, Maine.

As I type, I have bits of hay and sawdust still on me from evening chores to care for my two, Tennessee Walker Horse geldings. I became interested in horses as a teen but did not own a horse until an adult. I took lessons as often as I could in high school and spent a week at Michael Poulin's summer camp. Through college and life afterwards, I rode whenever I could and spent whatever time I could around horses. My first horse was a rescue-a Missouri Fox Trotter mare. She was free and I was thrilled to have her-BUT- she ended up being a "night" mare and was very strange and neurotic in her behaviour-to the point I almost wanted to be done with horses.

My first gelding, is a rescue of sorts, and had been both beaten and starved before he came to me. I am so proud of him for making all of the progress that he has. He has had a child ride him on more than one occasion and has been good as gold. My newest horse, is actually gold-in color! He is "golden cream champagne" and I've had him only since April. He just turned 5 and already knows how to sidepass, pivot either end and goes into reverse like a dream. I hope to do dressage with him-yes, a gaited horse-after my ability catches up with his! I have also trained with Jennie Jackson.

For those of you who have been thrown or are worried about injury-don't let that become your focus. I have been thrown off, kicked, stepped on, bitten, slammed into a wooden corner post (that wiped me clean off of my steed) and heck, I even dumped a horse in the road once and found both myself-and the horse-rolling across the pavement!! And this is as an adult-in my youth-I remember being almost stuck between two trees while on a runaway! It is all part of the adventure and learning of what NOT to do and how to keep oneself safe. Ask a trainer "what do I do if...." and name your most dreaded scenario. Your trainer will be able to give you tools you need to get through-whether it be the single rein stop (everyone needs to know this), how to stop the feet, how to "push off a tree to save the knee" or how to do an emergency dismount. The tools are out there-one only needs to ask. ALWAYS wear a helmet and if you feel you need to, the "body armor" vests that hunter/jumpers wear.

I take lessons as often as I can and feel that all equine disciplines have something to teach. I have gravitated to natural horsemanship as I found good results there and seek not only to become a great rider, but also to have a greater understanding of horses.
Lisa in Maine

Yes, I have a really good chiropractor who puts me back in working order after all of my "learning experiences"!!!!

July 13, 2012 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

I used to ride all the time when I was a kid - I was obsessed with horses. At one point, my dad co-leased a horse for me with a friend of mine. His name was Reno, and he was really huge - over 16 hands (which, for me, is a lot because I'm only 5 feet, and I was just a little kid) - and he was 32 years old! He was incredibly sweet and gentle, but I was afraid to ride him because he was so old. I didn't want to be responsible for his demise.

I haven't ridden for years, mostly because it became harder to find rental horses in L.A. But I still imagine that I'd be a pretty good rider if I got back on. I'll have to test that theory soon!

July 13, 2012 at 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have ridden my entire life. I also teach riders with disabilities to ride horses. Last year I put my 37 year old quarter horse to sleep. This horse taught me everything that I have ever wanted to know about horses. My instructor has a newer springier mare who needs someone to ride her through the rough patches before she becomes a lesson horse. In my teaching riders we have Icelandic horses, QH, Appendix, and a Racking Horse. Each horse provides different movements and a lot of fun for riders who thought they could not ever ride a horse.

Natalie from Kentucky

July 14, 2012 at 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to hook up with a fellow rider in my area. I own a big old thoroughbred gelding named Hammer who is trained better than any horse I've ever had. I ride with my uncle, who has an Andalusian stallion (he also trained my horse). I am going to start riding and possibly showing that stallion's daughter soon (she's in training currently) but she's too fancy of a horse for me to ever buy! We live in South Nevada County, California. We have access to a lot of great trails here, but I LOVE the idea of horse-camping and other trail adventures a little ways from home.

July 14, 2012 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Walter said...

I didn't start riding until my 40's to follow my wife; she has stopped but I stayed with it. We started on a quarterhorse and I moved up to a Hanoverian. Both those boys are retired now; their job is to graze. The Hano took me to first level before I retired him, now I'm trying to bring along a 4 year old Percheron mare. I had a trainer for awhile, but just as we started to make some progress, she took another job. I'm not trying anything I don't know how to do, but progress is slow without another set of eyes on the ground. Still, I'm happy with what was a year ago simply a green-broke horse. Once we get further along under saddle, I'd like to train her to pull a log or a stone boat, but I'm leery of rushing into that untrained. Happily, I'm not in a hurry. We're near Clarksville, TN

July 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger blind irish pirate said...

As a kid, I rode whatever four legged equid would bear me. When I was a teenager, I leased a thoroughbred/appaloosa cross and would have loved to own her. Then I went to college to be a veterinary technician, began working at a large animal hospital and have treated my patients like they are my own. I miss riding horses, and have picked up lessons here and there, but not enough to miss business (my career) with pleasure (a hobby).

Not, yet anyway. :)

July 14, 2012 at 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my name is Stacey and I live in West Arlington, Vermont. I started riding when I was 42 (I'm 45 now) at a barn in Bennington. I took lessons for a year before I bought a 14 year old quarter horse mare named Scarlet. She was very nervous and bolted on me in the ring. I think we would have won the Kentucky Derby with that run. The ride ended with her jumping through the gate and me falling off. I subsequently became very scared of riding. However, a friend of mine helped me trade Scarlet for a 20 year old Gelding Haflinger named Bill. I've owned Bill for almost a year now. He has been the best friend in the world to me and has gotten me through my fear. I think about him all day at work, even have his picture right by my computer. Even my husband likes him and he doesn't like horses. Bill gives lessons to tiny kids. He loves kids and everyone at the Barn loves Bill. Bill is stubborn at times an bucks a bit but it is an old fella buck and doesn't scare me. Bills favorite activities are going on a trail ride with Cricket, a percheron/thoroughbred and eating (especially bananas). I don't think I'll ever live without a Haflinger.

July 14, 2012 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

I've only just noticed this post Jenna. Hope I'm not too late to add my bit.

I have been horse mad all my life, got my first pony when I was 16 and have had horses on and off ever since. Over the years I have been involved with the Pony Club as an instructor, and really enjoyed teaching.

With my horses, I saved the best till last, when I bought Fahal (Fahly) a chestnut Crabbet Arabian gelding. When I went to see him, he came straight up to me and gave me a whuffly kiss, and that was it - we were both smitten. He was the most amazing horse - SO clever - but not the typical spooky Arabian. I soon learned I had to ride him like a seaside donkey so I rode him at the buckle end. He made sure he looked after me, but if someone rode him he knew he could get the better of, he did, little rascal! We understood each other very well, on so many levels. It broke my heart when I knew I had to part with him but he is in a forever home now, and happy. It was a privilege to know him.

July 15, 2012 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger SHJeffers said...

I started riding at 9 (I'll be 47 this year) when my parents finally gave in and got me a series of lessons at a local barn for Christmas. They said I could start when it warmed up. They lasted until February.

By June they had caved in and purchased a green broke 2 year old palomino named Joe for me. Joe and I struggled for years but I learned a lot and competed seriously through HS and college. I also rode every horse I could beg or borrow and that helped me grow as a rider. I rode everything from the docile rent-horses to calf roping horses to barrel racers to open jumpers to prix st george level dressage horses... anything the owners would let me ride I would.

I graduated to a very nice well schooled TB when I was 17 and showed him combined training through the Prelim level. My guts gave out there. :-) I also spent a couple of summers galloping racehorses in Unionville and at Delaware park and learned as much there as I did in all my years of lessons. Mostly how to have fun going fast!

I did not have much time for horses most of my married life, but when I found myself divorced and horseless, I bought a little ex-racehorse off Craigslist that I tool around on now and then. One day I'll leg him up and do some low level dressage and jumping with him, but mostly he just eats grass and makes me happy to look at him.

I have given lessons to several adult beginners and I just want to say that your struggles with Merlin are totally normal. You have done well in surrounding yourself with experienced riders, but you'll need hours in the saddle to 'get there'. Group trail rides are the best if you can find someone to ride with. Or just have a 'schooling' area somewhere nearby that is flat-ish and not real open. I used to use the corner of a clearing behind the barn. All you need is 60 feet by 60 feet to 'work' in. I can't begin to think how many 20 meter circles I have ridden!

There is a book called Centered Riding by Sally Swift that if you don't already have I would strongly encourage you to get and read. And if you can get your tush on other horses, I would encourage you to do that as well. Sorry this got long. :-)

July 16, 2012 at 3:49 AM  
Blogger wtf-ery said...


Greetings from the southern piedmont of North Carolina; I'm a transplant from southern California, and my husband and 7 year old son have a small-timey farm on just under four acres.

My mom said I have been riding horsed ever since I could hold my head up. When I was about five years old I had a pony, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and she was a mean little Shetland. My dad used to ask me why she "ate dirt," which I know now that he was making reference to her picking up every little alfalfa leaf she could off the ground....

At nine years old, when my mom was pregnant with my little sister, she traded a young started filly named "Bubbles" for a pregnant pony named "April" who became my lifelong pony (she is 37 now, and I've had her for 30 years) that taught me almost everything I needed to know about horses. (like, how NOT to "borrow" my grandpa's show bridle and reins, because out many miles into our trail ride, they broke - and she ran all the way home with my dog and left me to walk home alone...)

I believe I ate, slept, and breathed horses my entire life. Still do. There were days when at 11 years of age, I would be gone riding from sun-up to sun-down. I met my best friend on horseback, and we shared many miles and wet jeans from riding bareback all summer long.

Following in my mother's footsteps, I began riding as many horses as I could, the 'crazy' ones, the slow-pokey ones, the ones that nobody else could ride. I can't imagine my life without horses.

Fast-forward to adulthood and although there have been times when I have not ridden much, they have always occupied a large part of my soul and heart.

Now, my mom's buttermilk buckskin paint breedstock gelding, "Spencer," and "April" live with me here in NC; mom had them shipped from Cali in Nov. of 2009. Also with me is a young Haflinger mare, Lanie, who is 6 years old and rides and drives.

I give lessons to young women several months of the year, and while April is officially retired, Spencer fills the gap and fosters the love of horses with me to these young ladies who have been bitten by a "horse bug" and it overflows my heart to connect them with horses.

In regards to injury, I wrote about my experience on my blog, and while I'm still healing, physically and otherwise, it is important to start small in rebuilding the confidence and restoring the relationship and trust that seems broken.

Great topic, as always, Jenna; thank you for opening it up to everyone.

Horses are a gift, a mirror and a part of my life I can never give up. I'm nearly 40 years old, and although I've ridden my entire life, I see so many valuable connections with horses and life where I never saw them before. A horsewoman never stops learning. That is the best gift of all.

It has been terrific reading everyone's stories.

With gratefulness,

July 16, 2012 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Never rode in my life, never had an interest in horses...THEN I read a book you suggested "Dies The Fire" THEN I read one comment about a ride w Merlin (I am 4'11") and it was the leaves around your shoulders...I've always thought of the forest as my church, my cathedral. I want that vantage point! My youngest son and I have decided to take a riding lesson, or 2, or 3, or 4... I found a place called OXBOW next to my town - pretty affordable! We shall see! We shall see!!!

July 16, 2012 at 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 55 and have owned one horse at a time since my early 20's. 4 years ago I finally got my own farm after managing or living on others. I have bought several horses in this 4 years to supplement my Holsteiner, who gave me confidence to hack out alone. Some tried to take that confidence away and were sold and now I have young Welsh Cobs to test and expand my knowledge of training. Horses are my life, along with my husband, 3 dogs, 2 goats and 6 cats. I also paint professionally. A Calif. native, I am hunkered away in rural TN.

July 16, 2012 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I suburban kid I lived for summers when I could spend two weeks at "horse camp" and ride every day. Back then it was western, bareback, no helmets, and just bombing around in the trails. In my twenties I learned English, got hooked on dressage and rode all through my long graduate school career. Leased an OTT thoroughbred and eventually realized my instructors were not teaching me correctly, and the combination of "green on green" was not good. Hardest thing about being green to riding is not knowing how to tell a really good instructor from someone who doesn't really know their stuff. Took a break to have kids, and am back in the saddle again after 10 years. My instructor is a triple gold certified Chris Irwin trainer, she is amazing with horses, and her horses are amazing. I'm currently learning on a lovely QH who does everything: trails, western, etc and has been schooling dressage for the past year. He is currently training way above my level and it's a whole new experience: when I ask for something correctly I get it and I can feel what "right" feels like. Hoping to start competing in amateur shows next year, and hope to bring a horse to our little homestead in a couple of years. I will be finally fulfilling a dream I've had for 37 years to own my own horse! I'm on Vancouver Island off the southwest coast of British Columbia, in Canada. We have an excellent equine community here!

July 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Lorie Hyten said...

Jenna, reading your blog is like opening a window, refreshing, enlightening, invigorating, inspiring. I'm Kansas born and bred, horse crazy from day one. My first pony had an attitude not unlike Merlin's! With no one to help me sort it out, it really took the wind out of my horse-dream sails and I sold her when I went to college. But I never lost the passion for horses. In my 20s I spent a year working for some reining and cutting horse trainers, (cleaning stalls, no riding and NO PAY) to prove to myself I really did have what it takes to own a horse. Along came Dillon, race bred quarter horse, and later River, off-the-track Thoroughbred. Dillon was a bit too much horse for a green rider like me, but River was a perfect fit. We were partners right away but it took years for me to feel we were a real team. We do lower level dressage and a bit of jumping now and then. I live and board near Kansas City. My advice to you...decide on a mentor (or trainer) and then stick with them, follow instructions to the letter, and give yourself and Merlin TIME. Deep breath and enjoy the process. I am SO familiar with some of the trials you've described, been there, done that. But those moments of joy are priceless.

Keep up the good work kiddo!

July 20, 2012 at 9:07 PM  

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