My love of all things horsey started before I can even remember. In my baby book, it is recorded that my favorite book was the horse book and my favorite toy was my red felt pony. My Mom also loves horses so it’s not surprising that she would have made those things available to me when I was a tot. Mom had horses when she was a kid and I always loved to hear her stories about them.
There were several horses that were part of the menagerie Mom grew up with, but her own personal horse, which she bought herself, was a chestnut Tennessee walking horse mare named Sherry. Sherry was a riding and driving horse so Mom rode and drove her. They did parades and trail rides and horse shows. Mom drove her with a cart and with a sleigh. She even delivered newspapers for her paper route with Sherry.
When I turned 14, I finally got my first horse, Ivy, a wonderful little white Appaloosa mare. I did parades, horse shows and trail rides with her too. But I desperately wanted to do a job with her like Mom did with her horse. How I longed to have a paper route so I could ride Ivy around town with a purpose. The trouble was, we lived in Town Hill where the houses were miles apart. It would have taken me hours to deliver papers by pony express.
When my Mom took her horse to a show, she rode her there. Whether it was Sherry or a borrowed horse, they would ride down the road, sometimes 10 miles or more, spend the day at the show and ride home again. That wasn’t an option for me and my horse either. The nearest horse show was at the Blue Hill Fairgrounds. The show would have been over by the time I got there, so for that, I caught a ride with a friend who had a horse trailer.
I did ride Ivy to the parades though. Two years in a row, Mom rode her horse, Chief (Sherry had long since passed away), and I rode Ivy to Bar Harbor for the 4th of July parade. Had we taken the straight shot, it would have been about a three-mile ride, but in an effort to avoid being on the road with all of the tourist traffic, we took the back roads, almost quadrupling the mileage.
The first year we did that, there were some panicked calls to the Bar Harbor Police Department about loose horses out by the Kebo Valley Golf Club. How the concerned residents missed the fact that the horses were not loose but actually being ridden still baffles me. I suppose the fact that someone would ride a horse, on purpose, down Eagle Lake Road was more unlikely than the possibility that horses had gotten loose and were running free down the road.
With my first horse, I didn’t have a groomed ring to ride in. We traveled along Crooked Road, Knox Road, Gilbert Farm Road and Norway Drive as well as any little side roads we came upon. There were some trails we could get to and a few open fields where we were allowed to ride, but mostly it was just on the shoulders. When the horse show became an option I was suddenly faced with a dilemma. Ivy and I were really good at straight lines, but we couldn’t ride corners. Despite being called “rings,” horse show rings are rectangular, which means there are corners. Corners continued to be my nemesis throughout my showing career with Ivy. We did manage to practice circles by riding in the fields so I did my best to round off the corners and hope the judge didn’t notice too much.
Eventually, I moved Ivy to a riding stable and had a proper ring to ride in. It didn’t mean we got any better at corners, but we were able to practice anyway. We added barrel racing, jumping and obstacle courses — called Trail Class at horse shows — to our repertoire. Even if I never got to deliver papers with Ivy, we had many other adventures. Would I have been as adventurous if I hadn’t heard my Mom’s stories of her horses? I don’t know if I would have been as creative and daring without those anecdotes to fuel my mind. It was a great way to spend my adolescence. I learned independence, developed a good seat on my horse, explored a lot of the neighborhood in an eco-friendly way and got plenty of fresh air and exercise. Given all of that, I don’t mind not being able to turn a corner properly.