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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cindy, My Horse

As a child, I was fascinated by horses. I begged to have a pony from the time I was about 4 years old. I think the event that started this obsession was visiting a race track somewhere. I have this flash of memory of meeting a quarter horse and raising my arms as high as I could to pet the huge animal’s nose. The horse put his nose down where I could reach him and nickered softly. My parents stood watching as the owner reached down, picked me up and placed me on the animal’s back. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven! I was so little I couldn’t begin to reach the stirrups, but I was riding a “horsie.” I cried when they took me off and set me back on the ground.
I have a picture of my younger sister, Linda, and myself sitting on a saddle over a barrel in the farmyard. We wore cowboy hats, had a homemade bridle and our little toy six-guns. We rode many a mile on that barrel.
I had a collection of porcelain horses as a child that I kept in a shadow box and on my desk in my room. I had Palominos, Pintos, and Appaloosa breeds, as well as Quarter Horses, Shetlands, and Arabians. I was so proud of those horses. One day we had a family dinner at the farm, and some of my cousins were rough-housing around. They bumped into my shadow box and knocked it down from the wall. I lost about half of my lovely horses. I tried to send the cousins all home, but my parents wouldn’t stand for my rudeness and sent me to my room. So I simply told them all I was going to take a nap and they all had to leave my room.
When I was about eight or nine years old, I stayed with my cousin, Rita, on her farm near Esbon. She had two horses. The one I rode was about 12 years old, named Nifty. Nifty was a Shetland pony. We rode for hours on end. We covered ground for miles around their farm. I hated to come back home, where I didn’t have a horse of my own. I really badgered the folks for a horse after that.
When I was 10 years old, my dad bought me a horse. Well, actually, the horse was for the entire family, but everyone knew it was primarily for me…because I was the one that was nuts about the animals. Linda was afraid of them. (Remember, this is the sister that loved to wear snakes around her neck…go figure).
That first day, I could hardly contain my excitement as I rode the school bus home. I knew it was the day that the horse would be delivered. I couldn’t wait to ride it.
We didn’t have a saddle yet, so I pondered how I would get up on this horse that was half Appaloosa and a mixture of quarter horse and Shetland. She wasn’t a large horse, but she was an adult horse, probably about a year and a half old.
My dad offered his cupped hands as a step to get up on the horse. I stepped into his hand and up, up, up I went…and over and right down on the other side into a pile of fresh manure. My dad laughed. So did Linda and my brother, Tom, who was only about four years old. I cried, not because I was hurt, but because I felt so humiliated. I had reached for the horse’s mane and had missed. Having nothing to hold on to, and given my dad’s mighty push, I flew through the air.
My dad told me I had to get back on the horse, so I wouldn’t be afraid of her. I wasn’t sure I wanted to trust him again, but he promised to lift more gently and give me time to grab the mane.
This time, I was able to sit upright on the horse and was led around the farmyard. I had never ridden a horse this big before, but I loved it. I loved the smell of horses, I loved the feel, the sight and the sound of horses. I loved my horse….at first.
It didn’t take long for this horse, which we named Cindy, to discover that the three children who owned her were wimps. She learned many little tricks to rid herself of these parasites on her back.
She loved to rub us against tree trunks, barn doors, fences, farm implements, whatever offered the opportunity to erase the foreign bodies from her back. Eventually, we got a saddle. It was an old used one, probably dating back to the Civil War, from the looks of it. We learned how to strap it on her back and climbed aboard.
Talk about a rodeo! She bucked, she twisted, she gyrated like a whirling dervish. And if that didn’t work, she had a back up plan. We were totally unprepared when she first got this flash of intuition that if she rolled over on her back, we would jump off. Once it worked the first time, it worked every time. She was a real knot head. And we were…wimps.
One day, I decided it might be fun to have some of my friends over for a trail ride. So I invited a few friends over and we rode around the farm for a while. I soon discovered that I had a lot to learn about horseback riding. Cindy got really excited at having all that horseflesh in her vicinity and when the other girls took off galloping across the pasture, she galloped right along with them. I had not planned on galloping. I was doing good just to trot. I was bouncing all over that horse’s back, hanging on for dear life. That trail ride was not nearly as much fun as I had planned it to be. I never tried it again, either.
Eventually, after I had left for college and no one had ridden Cindy for some time, my parents sold her. I missed having her around, but I really had no desire to ride her again.
I have ridden horses since that time, but have never again owned a horse. I have ridden in parades with the Van Beek family and thoroughly enjoyed it. Horses are majestic and regal creatures, with a grace and beauty that continue to hold my fascination, only now from a distance. I love watching them on television, in rodeos, westerns, and I’ve been to horse shows and cheered on other members of our family who also enjoy them.
I think, however, that my old bones and stiff muscles are too brittle to ride again. My boots and saddle have retired. This cowgirl has been put to pasture for good.

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