When I retired to Arizona, trading my career, my friends and my home in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for my life in Arizona-I had one condition for moving to the desert of the Sulphur Springs Valley-my own horse .
I was brainwashed by Misty of Chincoteague in print. I was glued to the TV by shows like Fury and My Friend Flicka. So infatuated by these four legged creatures that people rode in the west I talked of nothing else. Surprisingly it was the Easter Bunny that heard my pleas and in 1961 when I was 6years old that generous old rabbit brought me my own Shetland pony and saddle. I think I might have stayed in the saddle for about 3 minutes. I was terrified. I don't remember the equine's name-I only remember being so very ashamed that I was so afraid of a small fuzzy pony. The fate of my first pony is also lost in the reality and fantasy that muddles in our mind when we grow older.
In high school, I rode my friends' horses any chance I had. I was braver or maybe just more foolhardy in the Age of Aquarius. . By graduate school in the 80's.I enrolled in some class offered by the University of Illinois and drove somewhere outside Urbana twice a week to officially learn to ride. In the mid 80's I was driving 25miles once a week with 3 other friends in our 30's to ride at a stable in Milton, Pennsylvania when I wasn't teaching college classes in Williamsport.
By the time I moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1991 -I had lost my cowboy boots, but not my passion for horses. Sam, my next door neighbor had two horses and I was soon in the saddle again! It was like Christmas anytime she would ask me to ride. We rode Sarvis Creek trail , crossing the water carefully -each hoof gingerly being put in the water by Maverick and I was on his back praying that he wouldn't slip. We rode along Copper Ridge at sunset and became so emerged in our ride that we hadn't noticed the sun setting. We took a short cut back-no time for timid wading thru the stream. It was hold on and just shut my eyes..Maverick decided to jump it. I held on and felt like I was the wind. I was 45 years old and still wanted my own horse
When we moved to Arizona, I bought Horses for Dummies and almost every book related to horses and their care on Amazon.com. I read the Tucson Star ad the local Strange uh.. Range News for horse classifieds. I went on line every day looking for my horse...one that was gentle, , smart and wanted me for an owner. My price limit was $2000. I found Smoke on the Internet at Christmas, thought about him until January and when he finally arrived on our 40 acres it was almost February. My husband thought I was crazy and the horse crazier.
Smoke growled at me when I went to pet him; ran in circles bucking in the air, and wouldn't whoa when one of my horse savvy neighbors volunteered to ride him first. I was horrified I had spent $500 on a saddle and tack , 2500 dollars for a trailer (that I still haven't used) ,and I paid the farrier $85 dollars for my equine's shoes and a pedicure. All for a horse that I was afraid of...I was 53 and knew my bones would be slow to heal if I was bucked off, but I was channeling those fears of my 6year old self.
It took me 8 days to get up the courage to get on this underweight Appaloosa that had been salvaged from a drug auction. Armed with apple oat treats I approached my horse talking horse baby talk . I started brushing his back, blowing my breath into his velvet nose, relying on my readings from Parelli and Cameron. I remembered the bond between the Lone Ranger and Silver, Roy Rogers and Trigger, Rex Allen and Koko. Finally I brought out my Troxell helmet, instead of a cowboy hat, a handful of molasses grain,not silver spurs and with bridle and saddle waiting on the corral, I talked to the Appaloosa that was finally mine. I am not sure what transpired but soon I was on my horse's back, singing Happy Trails at the top of my lungs . We have been best friends ever since.
If I forget to tighten the saddle Smoke will refuse to trot until I discover it. When the dogs decide to jump underneath him..he shakes his head at them; smiles knowingly at me. He lets Skippy the alpaca give him a kiss while we are leaving for a ride, and knows to stop when he hears the sizzle of a rattlesnake. Somehow he makes me turn around when a storm is going to approach in an hour and we always make it home before it rains.
So even though hay has gone to $17 a bale, a vet visit is more than I make in a week working for the U of A., riding my own horse into the desert sunset is priceless. I am finally living my childhood dreams.