Long before I was a teacher I was a student. From the first breath shared with a horse, I was enraptured. It became my mission, in whatever level of maturity I lived, to learn all my limited mind and bottomless heart could encompass about the horse. My early teachers, guides and horse friends were books. Margaret Henry, Walter Farley, C.W. Anderson, Margaret Cabell Self, Mary O’Hara, Will James, Dan Muller; famous and obscure, factual and fictional, I read everything related to horse.
My first riding teachers included Del Gonzales, Andy Ruiz, Dr. McCormick and Western Horseman.
Obie (short for Obnoxious) was a donkey, my first equine. He gave me his full friendship. I was young ( 11 years old) and inexperienced enough to laugh when Obie chased my little brother out of his personal space. We wandered the dirt roads around our home, jumping little branches in the road. He was everything I needed and wanted. I could easily hop onto his back. I think that is what gave me the confidence to vault onto a horse and ride a bare back. Our honeymoon was short lived. The family returned one night, actually one early morning, to Obie’s bellowing welcome. I think my parents envisioned lights coming on in every house bordering our short dirt road. They rehomed him within week.
My greatest teacher was Champagne Lady. She taught me to be light, sensitive and honest. To this day I am in awe of the quality of horse who was my first. Her training was far beyond my experience, but she taught me with the help of human guides. She was my ground and the expression of my spirit from age 14 through 18. I did not own a saddle until I was twenty-five years old. Everywhere we went we were bareback. We galloped along the surf of Topanga Beach, traversed the PCH to George’s Market, tracked Topanga Creek and even once ventured up Topanga Cyn Blvd. to The Center, my friend riding her horse and my brother riding double with me. My friend now says “What were we thinking?” Right? Sometimes you just have to find out it’s not the smart thing to do by doing it. I wish I had photos of those years.
For five years I was side tracked by motherhood and marriage. When I came back to horses it was as a teacher as well as a student. Many years, many changes, and I am still learning. I learn from friends with whom I share the horse experience, I learn from former students, I learn from other’s exploration into the horse/human relationship, but mostly I learn from the horses.
What are your stories of your first explorations into the horse/human relationship?