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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Good Question

I was going to talk about the Tricorne ponies/horses, which is a topic very dear to me, but first I want to discuss something a few people have wondered about. Namely, why haven't I ever owned my own horse, if I'm so into riding and horses? And since I wished for one on every single shooting star and birthday cake for more years than I care to count?

Well, as you might imagine, when I was little it was just not feasible from both a responsibility and money standpoint. As I've mentioned, my mom had a horse when she was a kid and knew full well just how much expense and commitment they entailed. She was far too smart to run out and buy an equine, only to find out that sometimes they *SURPRISE!* went lame, needed the vet and had to spend six months doing nothing but eating their head off. Just keeping a horse at Tricorne was expensive and there wasn't any place else nearby where we would have wanted to board. While we did have "green space" in our town, nobody offered pasture boarding, either; it was a H/J barn or nothing. That was what I wanted to do, anyway - jump. I also very much enjoyed the camaraderie of being with other horse nuts at the barn.

Just taking lessons was costly, not to mention the equipment I needed as a constantly-growing kid. Thank goodness one of the moms at Tricorne had a "tack swap" area in her house, where I could be outfitted with gently-worn boots/helmets/jodphurs. That was fine with me; I also remember being taken to the store to get a brand-new pair of jodphurs and suffering through breaking them in. Those suckers were STIFF!

  I don't think I ever looked quite as spiffy as that young lady, unfortunately. That's the British for you!

Riding was not the only activity I participated in, either. I was in the Girl Scouts (more clothes - you had to wear full uniform to every meeting), I took piano lessons and I played soccer. More importantly, I had two younger brothers who also had many activities: sailing, rowing, soccer, baseball, karate, Boy Scouts, etc. Footing the bill for a pony/horse for me would have consumed all the "extracurricular" funds and obviously not have been fair to my brothers.

As a child, I'm afraid I did not fully appreciate all of the above. I felt rather hard done by. "Who needs a barn, anyway?" I thought. "What's wrong with that nice big patch of grass right here? (Our backyard, about 1/4 acre) The garage would make a SWELL stall!" In fact, I would have been delirously happy with this arrangement:

Although I like to think I would have come up with a classier water container than a kiddie pool...

[Note: That, my friends, was some idiot's idea of a good Christmas present for four little girls. A 3-year-old 16 hh. OTTB with a knee the size of a basketball. The idiot at least admitted that this might have been a mistake while listing the poor guy for sale on Craig's List a couple weeks ago, stating that "he limps and the kids refuse to ride it anyway because he is so tall." Smart kids, huh? Of course, one must also realize that a total arsehole of a racetracker, or dealer, sold this person the horse straight off the track and even dropped him off  in the "backyard stabling" - of COURSE the family doesn't own a trailer! - without giving one thought to the inevitable outcome. Nice.]

As a teenager, I had several jobs, and some of my earnings did go to pay for equestrian activities, such as showing. But I never made enough to support a horse at a barn. I know a lot of kids earn lessons and even boarding by working at barns, but I needed cash to pay for other things, like a H.S. trip to Europe. Daily transport would also have been an issue. So I continued taking lessons, and was lucky enough to have a trainer who allowed me free horse rental and coaching for 4-H and C-rated shows, as long as I paid entry fees and trailering. And lucky to have parents who still supported the horse habit with lessons, gear and endless round trips to the barn!

When I was in my mid-twenties, I was taking weekly lessons at a mostly dressage barn. Someone offered me a free horse. You can all stop rolling around on the floor right now...what a joke! There ain't no such thing as a free horse, that's FOR SURE! Fortunately, my sensible side prevailed, and I knew that I was barely making enough money to keep myself alive, never mind a horse. Here's the mantra:


Same thing applies today, especially in today's crummy economy with horses being given away all over the place. I like to torture myself by looking at "horsey porn," a.k.a. Thoroughbred race horse adoption sites. For as little as $500 or in some cases, nothing, I could scoop up the OTTB of my dreams. The thing is, I would probably want to keep it at my old barn, where I would have access to a great trainer (very important with an OTTB), an indoor ring, jumps, lots of friends and oh yeah - someone else to feed every day at 6:00 AM and muck stalls (not that I mind the latter). The cost for all those goodies would run at least a thousand dollars a month. And whose fault is it that I don't have that kind of extra cash? Mine, of course. Not my kids who still need to go to college, either! :-) There are less expensive boarding options around here, but I am knowledgeable enough to realize I'd need professional help, at least for a while.

So the horse dream is on hold for now. I may not get one until I'm old and grey and might only be able to do dressage or driving instead of jumping (don't bounce as well as I used to already), but I'm a long way from giving up. I know of a local lady who was fox hunting and jumping well into her 80s, so there's still hope for me yet!

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