Summer of ’77

Scan 17

My 6th Birthday, welcoming Squaw to the family.

During the summer of 1977 most little girls were asking for a new Malibu Barbie for their birthdays. I liked Barbie too, but what I really wanted was a living, breathing pony. Not just any pony either. I wanted Squaw.

Squaw was a Pony of America with a nasty reputation for being willful, stubborn, a little too fearless, an escape artist, and full of boundless energy. In short, she was just like me. At the young age of 6 years old, I didn’t see her traits as bad or nasty, I only saw a beautiful pony that wasn’t afraid or too conditioned to try new things. I saw a friend.

Most parents living in suburban America at the time would not have succumbed to the pleadings of a 6 year old to get a pony for their birthday, but mine did. My mother had a horse growing up in rural east Texas and it was something she wanted to pass along to me. Like millions of people of her age in the 1970’s, she and my father were only one or two generations off the farm and still held tightly to some of the ideas of rural life.

Scan 1

My 6th birthday- I got a horse wind chime, a feed bucket with my name on it, and a pony.

We lived in Austin, TX that was also at the crossroads between rural and urban life. This short moment in time was the perfect mix for my pony and me to explore our world together. Our adventures took us far and wide as we road through the rugged woods of Westlake Hills before it was developed. Many times my mother would hike with through the Wild Basis Nature Preserve (which was not yet established) and at the end of the hike I was allowed to gallop all the way back to the barn which was miles away. I can still feel the thrill of charging through the woods, leaping over creeks, darting under trees and scrambling up the steep limestone slopes.

Riding on the trails was often the reward for making it through tedious lessons and shows. Riding in general became a common bribe for my parents to get me to do my homework or snap me out of one of my more stubborn moments.

Our times in the woods are some of the best memories of my life. Often, I would pretend I was a Comanche warrior and search the ground below for wildlife tracks. I even made a bow and arrows to sling on my back to complete the look. Like a good warrior’s pony, Squaw would even swim with me. I would glide along in the water hanging on to her mane, then drift onto her back just before she launched out of the river or pond.

My friends still tease me about how I could spring off a hay bail, fly across the back of Squaw, land just at her withers, and then go charging off with just a halter and a lead rope. Sometimes, during the charge I would fall off. Squaw would patiently wait for me to get back up and if she determined that I was okay, and if she was done with our games, she would prance off to the barn. Other times she would let me catch her and we would continue on.

On one occasion, I decided it would be fun to show her off to our neighbors. I rang the doorbell, waited for the door to open, then rode my pony straight into the their house. Thankfully our neighbors had a wonderful sense of humor and simply led us back out to the yard. They still enjoy telling that story when we meet from time to time.

Squaw was masterful in the show ring, but it was our time together in nature that meant the most to me. From age 6 to 17 she was my companion for exploration. When I was with her I had nothing to fear and our only boundaries were the limits of my imagination. She taught me what it was to care for another living being. And I came to understand what it meant to have a silent conversation through simply observing animal behavior and patterns.Scan 13

My senior year of high school I finally out grew her and decided to sell her to our veterinarian who wanted to use her as a lesson pony. About a year later he sent me a letter to let me know he was retiring her early because she simply would not let anyone else ride her. I had to laugh. The man that sold her to my parents told them, “I’ll make you a really good deal. Jennifer is the only one that can ride that little demon.” She lived to be 30 years old and even in her twilight years she dominated the hayrack from the bigger horses.

I’m lucky to still have horses in my life today. I went through a long period with a giant hole in my heart that could only be filled with a connection with a horse. I finally found good matches in a feisty mustang and a laid back Arabian cross. I share my love of horses and nature today by trying to encourage others to ride.  When possible I take my niece out on my big grey mare to walk in the fields and forests.

I know that soon the area I ride in will be developed just like the hills of my childhood. I might not be able to do a flying leap onto my horses now, but I am able to explore the woods and quietly observe nature from the unique vantage point of a horse’s back.

 

 

 

 

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Trail Report- June- 2015

I love riding on the trails.  Well- I love riding horses pretty much any where, any time.  After the Memorial Day floods of 2015, there was a lot of debris and mud on the trails at the barn where I ride. But a few amazing women did a little trail work and now we can ride again.  I also love my GoPro and learning how to edit on iMovie.  So I made a little Trail Report news reel to share with the other riders.

A Day in the Woods With My Friends

I’m lucky to live in a place that is close to where I can keep my horses and still have some open lands to ride them on.  This video is a short chronicle of a day doing some trail work with my dogs before having a nice ride with friends.  Most of the footage is shot from the backs of Chief, the dog with the pointy ears or Casino, the one with the floppy ears, or from the back of my big grey mare- Breeze.  Ranger, the dun mustang, didn’t make the ride today- but he got lots of attention, which is what he loves the most.  The rest of Austin, TX is knee deep in SXSW- but I would much rather be in the woods with the real wildlife, and my friends.

Sunday Morning

Many people spend their Sunday mornings at church and that brings them peace. They feel comfort in the hymnal songs and are brought inspiration in the words delivered in the service. I too enjoy finding, peace, comfort and inspiration on a Sunday morning, but I prefer to do that outdoors with the creatures God granted us the honor of sharing this world with.

Sunflowers in the back field.

Sunflowers in the back field.

Today I spent my Sunday morning on a trail ride with my big, grey mare. At 7:45 am, there are few other people at the barn, and I could enjoy all the natural sounds of morning and few human-made noises. Although, if I stand at the right place at the barn, I can hear the droning sounds of the cooling system from the Sam Sung Plant that is a few miles away. Mostly the air is filled with the calls of the grackles, white wing doves, house finches and cardinals, with an occasional dog barking in the distance.

My mare is a quiet sole so I don’t talk that much to her when we are tacking up, or even on the trail. We can communicate a lot of information by just the most delicate of touches as we plod through the meadows and along the trails. With all the recent rains and wind storms there are a lot trees that have fallen along the path that we have to negotiate, Breeze always chooses the right path to glide over a log or get me safely under a branch- and for that I am grateful.

On today’s ride I had a certain goal in mind when we left the barn- I wanted to see the big cottonwood tree at the furthest point we can ride to on the property. The tree rests in an ox bow of one of the creeks as it cuts along through the black land prairie. The tree has stood there long before Sam Sung built their plant, or before the first rancher laid claim to the land, it has peacefully watched over the changing creek for over 100 years.

On the way back, we stopped for a quick look at the field of sunflowers. Their happy, bright yellow faces turned to greet the sun as it climbed higher over our heads. The sun was already getting hot so we returned to the barn with a slow walk through the woods where the red shoulder hawks were teaching their young to fly and the wood peckers pounded away- looking for a meal. No song I’ve ever sung in church or words from a sacred book have ever been able to fill me with the inspiration,joy and since of responsibility that I find while quietly walking through the woods, observing all God’s gifts. For each it is different; for me- this is heaven on earth.