30 Years Of Horses

This summer will mark a very special anniversary for me – my 30th year as a horse owner. For a big city kid like myself, who always thought owning a horse was a real Impossible Dream, this is quite an anniversary indeed.

I was one of those storied little girls who was born in love with horses. I always loved all animals, but horses… There was always something special – magical – about them that I could never put into words. Even now I can’t express the feeling, and I think that only others who are blessed – or cursed! – with the “horse gene” can ever fully understand. I loved horses so much in fact, that I deliberately stayed away from them because it was just too painful to see them and not be able to touch or interact with them. We lived in Dallas TX – and I never even had the opportunity to ride at all, much less anything more.

Finally, in 1977 – when I was working full time and had my own money – it occurred to me that I could at least check out the possibilities at some of the boarding stables in Dallas. And, as it turned out, I would be able – just barely – to afford to board a horse at a wonderful place – White Rock Stables - only about ten miles from my home.

Now, all I needed to do was find a horse suitable for a timid adult who was so inexperienced I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Fortunately for me, the owner of the stable, Tex Oddson Sr., had a horse that he thought would be perfect for me. I was dreaming of getting a Morgan, but given my total lack of experience, I ended up taking Tex up on his offer – a 16 year old very well bred black Quarter Horse named Sirron. He sold him to me for $500, and it was the best money I ever spent.

Even at sixteen, Sirron was worth a lot more than $500. In fact, he was priceless. He knew everything, and he was perfectly happy to teach it all to me. He was fearless on the trail, and he was willing to tackle things he’d never been asked to do before – like dressage and jumping. He was perfect, and how I adored him!

He’s not showing great jumping form in this shot, but neither am I. Besides we were only jumping one bale of hay.

Sirron’s health had always been perfect, and he acted and looked more like an eight year old than a sixteen year old. By all rights, we should have had ten years or even more together. In fact, we only had five.

I truly thought my heart would break when I lost Sirron. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I had no intention of giving up on horses. I would gladly have kept Sirron forever, but since that couldn’t be, I decided to go for that Morgan I’d always dreamed of having.

The Morgan is a small breed. There are probably more Quarter Horses in Texas than there are Morgans in the entire world. This being the case, you have a small base to choose from, and prices are rather high. Undaunted, I pursued my dream, and I found him. In just a few weeks, I found him in Ardmore, OK, just about 150 miles from home. His name was Runcheck Dear John, a beautiful flaxen dark chestnut. He was younger than I’d planned – just turned four. He had very little training – definitely not what I’d planned on. He also cost more than I’d planned on… But, the moment our eyes met, he and I both knew we were meant for each other. Hey, you can’t fight destiny.

A Competitive Trail Ride near the Brazos River in Texas.

I called him DJ, and we did everything together for 20 years. We went on trail rides, both Competitive and pleasure, and he was always perfect. He loved the trails so much he never wanted to quit. He’d walk right past the trailer and start out on another trail! Every trail rider around Texas and Oklahoma in the mid-80s knew DJ. People would come running up to my trailer when I pulled in shouting, “Hi, DJ!”

We also took semi-regular dressage lessons – weather permitting. DJ was quite good at dressage, even if he didn’t like it as well as trail riding. :o)

I boarded him at the same stable in Dallas for ten years. Then, I got married and a couple of years later – 1992 – my husband and I purchased some acreage in his native Indiana. We packed up DJ, the dogs and all our stuff and moved to our “farm” – 24 acres and it was all ours! Finally! My own land with DJ just outside the back door. Heaven!

Since horses, being herd animals, are much happier with another horse as a companion. Within a few months we found her. The neighbor who was cutting and bailing our hay for us had a champion cutting Quarter Horse stallion that had been bred to a Quarter Horse/pony mare, and he had a yearling filly for sale.

Once again, it was love at first sight. She was bay and cute as a bug – totally irresistible. She didn’t really have a name, so I named her – Petite Ami, DJ’s little friend. And a friend she was. DJ’s relationships with other horses were always problematic. I think something must have happened to him before I got him that made him mistrustful of horses he didn’t know well. He seemed to like mares though, which is why I got a mare instead of another gelding. It worked, and he and Ami shared many happy hours grazing and just hanging out together.

Ami the kid.

DJ and I took it a bit easier in the second decade of our partnership. We rode in local parades – he loved to strut his stuff – and went on day rides with the local saddle club. We spent a lot of time just tooling around our own property – which was a nice ride in itself. And, we spent a lot of time just hanging out together.

We hung out in Dallas too, but I always had to have him on a halter and lead. Here, he was free to come and go, and if he hung out with me it was because it was his choice to do so. We had been very close before, but here our relationship developed into something much more profound. I tried not to think about I would do when I lost him…

No living thing is immortal, not even my Mighty DJ. He died with his head in my arms in 2002, just a few weeks short of his 25th birthday and our 20th anniversary. He’s now resting peacefully in his beloved pasture.

Right or wrong, losing DJ brought me the most astounding pain I’ve ever suffered in my life. The emptiness was overwhelming; the knowledge that I’d never hear his nicker or sit on his broad back again was unbearable.

From my experience with Sirron, I knew the only way I could help myself was to start searching for another horse ASAP. Besides, Ami was missing her buddy. It was heartbreaking to watch her looking for him and hearing her calling for him day and night. I tried to comfort her, but she’s not the type of horse who bonds with humans that closely, and I couldn’t help her much.

From my long years with DJ, I knew I had to have another Morgan. Of course, I was then confronted with the same obstacles I encountered in 1982 – few to choose from and price. However, I did have a couple of tools I did not have in ’82 – the network of Morgan breeders and owners I’d developed over the years and the Internet.

I was having a lot of trouble sleeping, so I spent the nights surfing the Net for horses. I’m not sure how I happened to hit the link to Valley Stables in Michigan, but I did and there he was. His name was VS Golden Desperado – barn name Indy – and he was my horse. He was about the same age that DJ was when I got him. He had about the same amount of training – or lack thereof! He even cost the same. And, as it turned out, he also has a personality quite similar to DJ’s – only even more inquisitive and mischievous, if that’s possible. For the details of my early adventures with Indy, see the archives of this Journal, for it started with him.

Indy and Ami – Love at first sight! For ALL of us

What’s ahead? I have no idea. All I know is that Indy and Ami – and Sirron and DJ – have enriched my life in ways that I would never have imagined without them. Here’s to the next 30 years.

Welcome To My World

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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra