My earliest memories are horse related. I remember the cowboy themed curtains above my crib when I was around 2 years old. I read every horse book that was written, wrote horse books myself, drew horses, talked horses, pretended I was a horse. Unfortunately, I grew up in Northern Michigan, Houghton to be exact, where horses were a rarity. In fact, there are fewer horses in the Upper Peninsula per person that ANYWHERE else in the US, including Alaska. As you can imagine, this was a sad state of affairs for a horse-crazy young lady. Our neighbors did get a pony when I was around 11 or so. I rode that pony (and was kicked, bit, dragged, thrown and whatever else ponies do to kids that don’t know anything) until my feet were dragging on the ground. I did get a few lessons from a local (or as local as we could get) lady. I learned about horses not getting caught, horses rubbing you off on barbed wire fences and generally had a blast.
My parents told me that when I had saved $500 I could buy my own horse and at age 14 I had $497. I bought a green broke appy and a book called Saddle Up. That began my frequent trips to the local emergency room, where the usual greeting was “What did you do this time?” It was always a good story.
I rode Streaker (Red Eagle’s Streak) all through high school. There were no other kids (or adults) with horses anywhere, so I rode by myself. Hours away from home, through woods, down roads often coming home for that trip to the emergency room. Looking back, I’m sort of amazed my parents took it all in stride.
I had to sell Streak when I went off to college, and I hear he went on to many more years of making young girls happy. I took a break from horses until 1985, when I went to Meredith Manor School of Horsemanship in W. Virginia. Until then, I didn’t even know those sorts of programs existed. I was there for one semester of absolute heaven until it went bankrupt and took all my tuition money with it. But, I consider that semester a win, as I realized exactly what I wanted to do with my life…horses. Seems sort of obvious now, but back then there were very few equine related programs.
Fast forward a few years, when my husband and I were living in Redmond, WA. I found a working student position with a dressage trainer on Bainbridge Island and spent a year commuting back and forth on the ferry. I was offered a job there, but couldn’t see continuing to commute that far every day. I took a job at North Star Farms and worked there for about a year, until they moved north and I decided I didn’t want to commute that far. Not long after that, we bought our own place, where we still live today. I started boarding horses and took another job as a working student for a local dressage trainer. I worked for her for about a year and during that time I was also building my breeding program and doing some competing. A few kids and years later, I took another working student position, where I took lessons and worked for about 3-4 years. That was about 10 years ago now, and since then I’ve done 10 years of endurance riding (although never at a very high level – hard to do that with young children and a barn), some expos, lots of breed promotion and breeding.
I continue to attend dressage and horsemanship clinics. My preferred form of competition is endurance, but schedules and some ankle surgery have put a crimp in that recently. That’s okay – I have continued to mentor new riders and attend rides, as well as volunteering. I also do lots of work for the ATAA (Akhal-Teke Association of America), and recently did two years as the newsletter editor for the Pacific Northwest Endurance Rides. I will continue to ride, breed, train and teach and see where it leads me!