How many times have you heard people say that? My brothers and I have certainly uttered that phrase quite a few times, mainly in front of our mother. Of course it never fails to get a rise out of her. Her stock response, however, is "And look how well you turned out!"
In this case, I really am telling the truth: my mother is the one who first planted me on a pony and started the horse obsession. That's me on the little Shetland, age about one and a half, and that's her standing by, pregnant with my sister and hair falling out of her bouffant. Given that we were in Florida and it was probably pretty warm out, the collapsed 60s hairdo is understandable. I'm just glad I'm wearing a shirt, because there are plenty of photos of me half-naked in the hot Florida sun (no, I'm not sharing any of those - this is a G-rated blog!).
The pony ride took place at some establishment near Daytona Beach and as far as I know, I wound up there not because I asked, but because Mom thought I might like it. She was right (thanks, Mom!). Apparently I didn't want to get down off the pony. She was able to lead me around and I thought it was the best time I'd ever had. We went back a number of times, and there are more photos somewhere, but I treasure this one as evidence of my very earliest equestrian experiences. I just wish I remembered it. (Real earliest memory? Watching the neighbors wash dishes, through my bedroom window, or getting spanked for shoe-polishing the bedroom floor. Huh.)
Once the riding commenced, another thing Mom did to fuel the habit was find me some appropriate clothes. This may shock those who know me strictly as a "hunter princess" (HAH!), but she didn't get some naff little set of jods and a black velvet hard hat. Oh, no: a "cowgirl" outfit was purchased, complete with fringed blue suede chaps and vest, boots and a hat. I thought this outfit was just the bomb and wanted to wear it morning, noon and night. I even had a cowboy-themed birthday party. Obviously this Western phase was eventually outgrown, and aside from longing to model a red-hot sequined Slinky for my husband, I haven't looked back. The cowboy outfit went on to be worn by both my brothers, their boys and my son as well, so it was a good investment.
I am told my father also took me to the pony ride place one (1) time. The story is, the pony had the temerity to place its dainty little hoof upon my father's delicate foot. Dad was utterly convinced, then and forever, that all equines were "out to get him." His role in my horse activities thereafter consisted mainly of taking pictures, filming, and paying the bills (thanks, Dad!). He did consent to mount up a couple times for the Adult Leadline class at my childhood shows, but you'll have to read about that later.
Mom came up with the pony idea due to the fact that she herself rode and actually owned a horse as a child. "Blackie" (Mom's horse) and "Firefly" (my aunt's) lived in their father's coalyard in New Jersey, and were ridden around a makeshift ring there. They also went on vacation with the family to their lake house, where they drew a real "surrey with the fringe on top." They were much-loved and their loss was felt deeply when Mom's parents divorced and they had to be sold.
When I was old enough to understand that Mom had once had a horse of her own, two things happened. I threw a fit because I wanted to know WHY on earth those horses were not STILL around for me to enjoy, and I was insanely jealous. This wasn't just when I was little: the latter feeling at least lingered well into my teenage years. Of course I figured out eventually that poor Blackie and Firefly would have been rather long in tooth by the time I was a kid. Not that that would have bothered me... any equine was better than none, in my book.
So back to the little kid, moseying around under the pines in Florida on a long-suffering pony. I'm glad to see the little horse was in good weight and looked well-groomed. As you can see, I'm quite focused on the pony and not on my mom. Somewhere in my young brain, a few things must have registered:
1) This is FUN.
2) I feel right at home on this critter.
3) I can DO this.
And thus was born a Rider.