My gray Arabian, Kadeen, is for all practical purposes the first horse I really researched and purchased for myself. Nearly all of the horses that preceded him either “fell in my lap” or initially were acquired for someone else. That’s pretty crazy considering I have been riding horses since I was in the single digits…
My first ponies
I used to spend a couple of weeks every summer at a cousin’s farm in Illinois. I was totally in heaven there, as they raised German Shepherds and had an ancient pony. One summer I leash broke 21 puppies! The pony, of course, had no bridle but dog leashes snapped to a halter was all I needed. The pony’s name was Brownie.
My parents bought me a pony when I was about 9. No saddle–just the pony. Toby was a cantankerous beast that delighted in dragging me all kinds of places I didn’t want to go. Eventually I think I got a saddle because I rode the pony in the 4-H club events. I even remember riding him in my neighborhood 4th of July parade, down the paved streets of a subdivision.
“Inheriting” a mare
My sister was also riding horses at that time, and it seemed that I consistently inherited her horse when she “moved up.” Eventually, she went off to college and I was riding her half-Arabian mare. My trainer felt like I was ready for something more, so she arranged for my parents to purchase a full Arabian gelding that she had for sale. He was an awesome horse in many ways, but not the most classic Arabian in the world. We couldn’t afford a lot of money for a horse.
My first Arabian
I showed that gelding in open shows and I still remember placing 4th or 5th at the State Fair. Not first, which obviously is what everyone aspires to… but I was thrilled with our placement because it reflected the fact that we were a terrific team. I wasn’t a big-name trainer on a super-expensive horse. I was a girl who had worked and worked with her horse. Therefore he was a cooperative, responsive mount and that made him a pleasurable pleasure horse! Ironically, at that time I didn’t fully understand how much our relationship and communication had to do with how we operated as a team.
When I went off to college for undergrad, we tried to keep that horse. My mom tried to ride him occasionally but he was too much horse for her. Eventually we had to sell him and that was very, very hard for me.
Danny & Karits
When I showed in high school, I also showed a couple of other horses occasionally. One was a beautiful Morgan gelding named Danny. He was the Morgan of old… a stocky bay with an incredible black mane and tail. He was also boarded at my barn, and his owners rarely rode him and didn’t show. But they liked to see him in a show, so I had the joy of riding him. He had a canter that could put you to sleep. At home in the schooling arena, he never missed a step, but he was terribly ring-wise. Time after time he would blow a class and it didn’t matter if I corrected him in the ring or not. Once we placed second in a class of over 30 even after he had his usual misstep.
Occasionally, I rode another Arabian named Karits. I only got to ride him at shows and that presented a unique problem. Karits had some reining training, and he backed like a shot out of a canon. Supposedly there was some difference in the signal I was supposed to give him to back in a nice, controlled reverse, versus the rocket propelled version I always experienced. I never figured it out and I lived in fear during every class that we would have to back at the end. Every time I had to back him (with the judge right in front of me) I pitched over his withers. He backed but I didn’t! The other unique thing about Karits was that he had been in a trailer accident and had burn scars down his left flank.
During most of my college life, I was without a horse. Vet school barely left time for eating, much less riding a horse. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about my next one, and still invested in equine activities.
The Babson Arabian horse farm
The farm in Illinois where I hung out with Brownie and the German Shepherds was located about 20 miles from the Babson Arabian horse farm. Non Arabian enthusiasts probably have no idea about the Babson lore, but for those who love Egyptian Arabians, Henry Babson is somewhat of a household name. When I was a child, I had no idea about the farm. It wasn’t until I was in college that I first visited this most amazing facility. At the time, Homer Watson, Henry’s “right hand man”, was still alive, and he was mentoring the man who would eventually take over the operation, John Vogel.
In my next post, I will tell you about an early conversation with Homer that resulted in a straight Babson mare coming to live with me. The hope was that my connections at the veterinary school would make it possible to impregnate her by embryo transfer. It sounded like a good idea, but…