When I was nine or ten, my parents bought me my first horse. Actually, he was a large pony from Old MacDonald’s Farm, a local petting zoo. I have no idea why the farm was selling him, except he liked to bite. He was black and white, with a thick neck and big head. I thought he was beautiful. My own pony. I had dreamed about this day for years; well, at least since I was eight.
As I remember, that first summer was a bit rough. Perky (a name that never quite fit the package) had the bad habit of bucking me off on a regular basis. We eventually reached an understanding, but I had many friends who ended up in the dirt of the arena at one time or another. It was a right of passage. No one rides the pony without hitting the dust a few times for good measure. Luckily, this was in the 1960s when no one talked about suing anybody.
Perky died when I was thirteen. My parents replaced him with another horse and I continued riding through high school. A bit like the Velveteen Rabbit, I lost interest in my college years and the ponies were sold. The stable became a shed for garden tools; the fencing of the paddock a trellis for the wild roses my mother planted to border the lawn.
There weren’t horses in my own back yard again until more than 20 years later. Up to that point we had had neither the space nor the money to host animals larger than a dog, a cat, an iguana, various domestic rodents, and a bird or two.
The ponies arrived as rescues in the night and thus began a new chapter for the horses in my life; except this time I had daughters of my own and a husband who had spent more childhood years riding a dirt bike than anything with four legs and a mane.
The idea was to teach our girls to ride, to be responsible for something larger than a dog, and to keep them distracted through their high school years when sometimes a horse can be a better friend than the two-legged kind. It didn’t work exactly like that for both kids because apparently you have to have some special crazy-about-horses girl gene to make you keep riding when your friends have other ideas to occupy the hours after school.
But all of us were touched in one way or another by the horses in our back yard. They morphed over time as some proved more reliable than others, but we settled on one of our rescues, Moralecia, a fancy little Arabian with a large attitude and a good mind, and a square-headed Appaloosa named Chaco who was athletic and gentle in an old soul kind of way.
Our horses became ‘familiars’ as the years passed and our girls grew. There is a strange, almost centaurian oneness that develops from riding a horse day after day, where communication is handled by the shift of one’s weight or the nudge of a heel. It’s non-verbal but totally understandable. Our horses in turn used their own signals, if we were smart enough to pay attention: the turn of an ear, a look in the eyes, a nuzzle, a shove.
In the end, if you want to know the truth, I think we can actually blame our move to this farm on the horses. Greg figured they needed more space than our 1-acre suburban lot and so he bought them 40! I never understood until then that for the love of horses we were to become farmers.
Old MacDonald’s Farm was a prescient look into my future. No petting zoo here and the horses don’t bite, but Perky would have loved this place. And, while it took our desert horses more than a little time to adjust to the green pastures and forests of Oregon, they’ve settled in. So, too, have we.
Photos:(top)Moralecia and Chaco when we first arrived in Oregon;(bottom)Moralecia, Chaco, and Tater about 3 years into our move
Postscript. I have been remiss at finishing any of the blogs I started since last May and have about 10 partially completed, but none ready to ‘go’. As I find time this winter, you may read stories from 6 months ago and wonder what is going on at the farm. Nothing, except it’s a farm and farming is never done.
All rights reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones