Do you remember your first horse? Good, bad, or indifferent most of us do. The recipient of mistakes galore they help to teach us and mold us into the horsemen or horsewomen that we are today. After all, we all have to start somewhere.
My fist horse was actually a pony. Her name came from a treasured movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” She matured out at just 13.2 hh and was the first generation of today’s Spotted Saddle Horse. The hunter/jumper I wanted she wasn’t but she was equine and she was mine.
Despite my father’s background in dairy cattle both my parents were veritable newbies to the world of horses and we were on a tight budget. A family member however was a horse person and she had connections to the local horse community. When an owner lost a mare her orphan foal became available and she was free.
In most cases this would have been the worst possible thing to do. I am a huge advocate of pairing older, experienced horses with young riders but fortunately for me, it worked out. My aunt brought the little orphan foal home and together we set about saving her with frequent bottle feedings and later feeding her from a bucket. She may have been small with multiple deficits but she had a strong will to live. I believe it was her rather determined nature that helped to pull her through.
As she grew we halter broke her, long lined her, and later started her under saddle. My commitment proven, she officially became mine on my twelfth birthday. She may have been parrot mouthed and pigeon toed but she was game. She rode multiple neighborhood children on her back (at the same time) and allowed me to stand on her bareback as she racked her way around the pasture while I controlled her with only a halter and lead rope.
We rode in parades and once escorted a rider through our home county as she made her way across the country raising money for a charity. For six years we crisscrossed much of middle and east TN competing in 4-H and local open shows once being name high point in our division at the very first Tennessee 4-H Horse Show way back in 1985. Sometime later she became the dam of the only foal I was ever directly responsible for breeding. In retrospect, her conformation alone should have eliminated her from contributing to the gene pool but as always when working with her, I learned.
Just some of the things I learned from that little mare were early vaccination and de-worming protocols, first aid skills, dealing with common illnesses, handling training issues, and how to fall off. Without her I might never have even been able to move on to owning and riding the other disciplines that I so often dreamed about. To her I owe much. In 1994 I sold her to family looking for a first pony of their own. It was time for her to teach another generation.