Growing Old Together – Remembering Good Times with Horses Now Grown Old

My favorite issue of The Northwest Horse Source each year is the Senior Horse edition. My first horse, Bayleen, was with our family from when she was a two-year-old and I was six months old; she died at 37 when I was 35. Bayleen ushered me through many important seasons in my life and truly shaped who I am as a person.

There was a time in my life when the very most exciting event was new hooves hitting the ground. I’d wonder what the foal’s future would hold. Like a kid at Christmas, I counted the minutes to the first ride, or the first step into the arena at the futurity. Newer, better, faster was the name of the game. I too was young and fresh and ready to take on the world.

As time progressed, I learned to appreciate the process of a horse moving from the snaffle, to the hackamore, through the two-rein, and into the bridle. I loved showing aged horses and was lucky to retain many of my best show horses. Much has changed in the past twenty years, and as I limp into my middle-aged years, many of those great horses are still creaking along beside me as senior horses. More sentimental than I ever thought I would be, this season of life has me appreciating those horses more than ever.

I have known some of my current horses since I was 21 years old and an aspiring horse trainer. Fancie (Cutter’s Tourist Trap) was the two-year-old filly I started at Cal Poly; she was sold and purchased at the Snaffle Bit Futurity Sale. I took my first wide-eyed steps on her into the big pen at the Reno Event Center for the 2000 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. She was the horse that was there when I fell in love with cow horses.

Playboy (Smokums Playlena), now turning 27, is a NRCHA Supreme Reined Cow Horse and he taught me what a bridle horse is. Quirky. Broncy. Gritty. Common, if not homely, to look at, he taught me that no book is defined by its cover. Playboy gave more to me than I can ever repay him, and it makes my heart swell that he’s the horse to give my daughter the confidence to ride on her own, just as he did for my son.

Turning 26 is my first stallion, Cue Bars Laddie. I feel like I made every mistake I could have as a stallion owner, and he was more forgiving than I ever deserved. I spent many nights in the barn waiting for his offspring to be born. I learned to rope on him and, now a gelding, he rules the herd.

Joey, my Cow Cuttin Colonel stud, will turn 21 years old next year. I often can’t remember people, or places, but I can close my eyes right now and remember the first time I saw him as a yearling in the sale stalls at Reno, and I’m 24 all over again. I can honestly say that I never had a single bad ride on him—he was just that easy to train. Our main riding horses are all his offspring, and it’s fun to see his traits passed on. I have a fondness for him that I can’t put into words. He’s always just been a special soul.

Life and responsibilities make riding less of a reality for me now. I certainly do not have the physical abilities I once had, but I do get immense joy from being able to spend time with my old friends. Watching my herd gallop across the field is rewarding. Things were not always happy or easy in my life in those times when they were all young. But, reflecting on who I was when these senior horses were young makes memories rose-colored. Someday, memories will be all that remains, but for now I still get to greet each day with their welcome nickers.

I am grateful to have a profession that allows me to provide a comfortable life for the equine family that has given so much to me, and even more grateful to have horses in my life that I can trust to teach my children to love and appreciate horses. It’s unifying among horse lovers, and it may be one of my favorite facts of life that within each of us beats a heart that has deeply loved, and been loved, by some very special horses.

 

See this article in the 2020 December online edition:

December 2020

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