My love for horses started a bit rocky. In a suburb of Los Angeles, a three-year-old girl living in a tract home neighborhood encountered a pinto pony and his photographer. I was concerned about it, worry showed on my face. The picture pony business was very popular in the 1950s along with the ice cream truck that came down our street. In some of my mother’s pictures, I found she had the same experience with a pony when she was 4 or 5 and her expression was one of delight. That was exactly what would happen to me with more equine exposure.
My family moved from the sidewalks and city air of California to Oregon in 1957, when I was four. In the country outside of Eugene, we settled onto a piece of pioneer paradise. We had a house with no running water and no indoor plumbing of any kind. My dad had lost his right arm in the service and was on a small disability pension. He built up quite a sufficient farm for us to grow food and have chickens, pigs, and two milk cows. He did quickly get water to the house and a pitcher pump on the sink for my mom. She cooked on a wood stove and made sure we got bathed in a round galvanized wash tub once a week. I was in heaven with the animals; dogs, cats, and occasionally a goat or a few ducks, but horses were missing. There were a few in the neighborhood but they were expensive to keep and served no purpose for our little ten-acre farm.
My love for horses constantly grew, and once my uncle got a big Palomino named Major, I couldn’t stop the obsession of one day having my own. The TV series Fury sealed the deal and by the age of ten or eleven, the farm was gone off our property, the back acreage sold off to a new home site as our area was developing. My dad had built a new house and had leveled the old one and the barn.
When I was twelve, I went strawberry and bean picking with my cousins and my dad said he would match whatever I made … to spend on a HORSE! I began devouring everything I could read on what to look for in behavior, conformation, and soundness. The day came when My dad took me to check on a horse I could afford. He was a young dark bay gelding bred for racing they said. His name was Kandy. I had hardly looked him over and once aboard, he took off and raced clear to the end of a long rectangular pasture, turned around himself, and ran back, stopping at his owner. I was totally out of control but not afraid. My dad looked at me and I said I would take him. That was it, I was in LOVE. My dad paid the $150 and quickly built a large corral with a loafing shed that was to cover the horse and a side for feed and tack.
With that first wild ride, an unbelievable adventure began and brought with it salvation and a spirit of freedom I would have never known in my life. That horse turned out to be the most important animal relationship I would ever have. Even though today I don’t own horses, my love and appreciation for them continues to teach me many lessons about life.
With much to enjoy about the horse world, nothing is more bittersweet than to embrace the plight of the horse in the wild. The struggle to survive in natural habitat is difficult enough but the management forces that want to change their primitive culture are a travesty. In America, these horses reflect the spirit of freedom and independence that every human heart appreciates when they see them roaming free. For those of us that love them, we can’t help but look at a wild horse and feel the need to be like him.
So, with much more to be said, consider this a series to be continued...
Keeping the Carter Reservoir Mustangs running free on public land is a mission for the nonprofit CRMI. Please click on the link to sign the petition in support of their effort on behalf of this heritage herd. Learn more about the wild Carter Mustang's ancient bloodlines and why I personally, as well as others, are excited and passionate about their conservation. https://www.carterreservoirmustangs.org/petition