When I was 12, I saw a Disney movie called The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit. I was hooked. I had horse fever. Bad. I also developed a crush on Kurt Russell, but that’s another story. I had taken ballet lessons for five years, but given the choice between ballet and riding lessons, ditch the ballet. (Yes, in olden times you had to choose, you didn’t get to do both.) It helped that my ballet teacher was retiring, and I wasn’t thrilled with the new guy.
I checked The Horseman’s Encyclopedia by Margaret Cabell Self out of the library and read all 640 pages from cover to cover three times. The sweet lady my Mom found to give me my first lessons had studied under the woman herself. Miss Terry had a horse named Leroy with talented lips, who could open just about any latch. He’d let himself out, then let out all the other horses for company. For an extra dollar, Miss Terry would give us students a second hour of instruction in things like how to groom, clean a stall, or assemble a bridle.
Those skills would come in handy since I was blessed with several friends who had horses of their own. These friends could often be persuaded to share a ride with a friend who was willing to do some of the work. Kathie Stotesbury, who lived right up the street was especially generous with her big, chestnut gelding. Her dad raised Shetland ponies, and had a training ring and everything. I thought she was one of the luckiest girls in the world.
Kristi Frederickson was another friend who was lucky enough to have a horse and barn on her own property. She was a sweet friend, beautiful, and smart. With her encouragement I joined our local 4-H Horse club. If you didn’t have access to your own mount, you were still allowed to participate for up to a year.
Kristi’s best friend, Lora Kutteroff , kept her horse in a boarding stable down the other end of my street. She didn’t let me ride hers, but by hanging out with her and pitching in, I worked my way into a deal where I could do two hours of work for the stable, in exchange for an hour of free riding time. Followed: a glorious summer where I got to ride every single day.
But all of those wonderful experiences pale in comparison to the day my parents told me I could have a horse of my own.