say I was “Horse Crazy” in the 60’s is like saying “War and Peace” is a good
book or the “Mona Lisa” is a nice painting, it doesn’t begin to give an
accurate description. Mom said I came
by it naturally because her father loved horses. Add to that the television
genre for that time period was Westerns and it is no wonder I grew up believing
my life was incomplete until I had a horse.
We lived in San Diego and not only did I not have a horse, there were
none close by and I didn’t know anyone that owned one. As I set my goal on saving enough money to
buy one myself, I got by with a lot of creativity and imagination.
Barbie dolls took a far second to my “Buddy-L” horse hauler,
complete with three plastic horses. A
B-B gun was another favorite Christmas present…all of the television cowboys
had guns and rifles. I tied tin can
lids to the back fence with a piece of string and would stand on the patio and
shoot them, making them spin. We hunted
in the canyon behind our house. No
sparrow was safe, but I found out the hard way that shooting a dove would break
I am still amazed my first horse never pitched me. It was a picnic bench placed upside down at
the edge of our picnic table. I had one
belt circling the bench, another was the stirrup leather and a third was the
stirrup. And I actually put all of my
weight into the stirrup and mounted my horse just like you’re supposed to, from
the left. Once mounted, I kept my
right leg curled on top of the picnic table.
Two dog leashes fastened to the “X” of the upturned bench were my
reins. I would open a book on riding
that I had checked out from the Bookmobile whenever I could find it and
practice mounting, holding the reins and proper foot placement while
riding. Between my riding lessons and
during the weeks I didn’t have the library book, my imagination took over. I was riding all over the Shiloh Ranch with
James Drury, “The Virginian” or I showed up at the Texas Ranger’s headquarters
in “Laredo” as Captain Parmalee’s long lost daughter and got to hang out with
Joe, Chad and Reese. Joe Riley, William
Smith, was my personal favorite until he put on an eye patch and shocked me by
killing Nick Nolte at the end of “Rich Man, Poor Man.”
I had set my monetary horse purchase goal at $300. I kept checking the San Diego paper
classified ads to see how many were for sale and for how much. Trying to reach a $300 goal when you were
given twenty-five cents a week allowance was rough. It did teach me the value of a penny. During one of my many investigations of the classified ads, I saw
a boxed ad stating that if a certain car dealership couldn’t put you in a new
car, they would give you $100. One
hundred dollars would be a major step towards my horse purchasing goal. I called up the dealership and told them I
wanted to buy a car. When they asked
my age, they told me they couldn’t do it.
I tried to collect the $100, but they wouldn’t do that either. Another of life’s lessons learned – if it
seems to good to be true, it probably is and nothing comes easy.
Someone finally gave me a subscription to a
horse magazine that I read like a bible.
I was going to be fully educated when I became a horse owner and
rider. Thanks to an article in that
magazine and a patient Basset Hound, I can still create three different kinds
of halters with a length of rope and a loop.
Yes, I finally did get my horse.
When I was 16 my father gave me the ultimatum, you can have a horse or a
car, but you can’t have both. I chose
the horse. The other catch being I was
financially responsible for all horse costs – feed, vet, blacksmith, etc. Once again, nothing comes easy.
But horse crazy doesn’t end when you get your first horse. Horse crazy is your mom catching you leaving
the house for school with your spurs on, skipping classes to check out western
stores and horses for sale, and your
best friend’s mom knowing she’ll never have shrubs in front of her porch
because that’s where you tie your horse.
Horse crazy is riding too late at night and returning home along side
the state highway with a flashlight so the traffic can see you in the
dark. Horse crazy means that while
every other senior at your high school heads to Florida for spring break, you
and your best friend drive to Colorado in search of cowboys. While the rest of the seniors are off to a
lake for Senior Skip Day, you’re riding all over town to meet up with a couple
other horse crazy classmates for a full day on horseback. When you finally return home that day and
dismount, your legs are like rubber and you can’t even stand up. A Saturday night of raising hell was shoving
a couple bottles of Boone’s Farm into a bag of ice and heading over to the
horse auction. You and two of your
friends never failing to elbow each other and comment that we should have
signed up for a number, that was a fine looking horse and he went cheap.
When you’re horse crazy, instead of going away to college you head
to Montana and work at a dude ranch.
Once they take the room and board out of your pay, you’ve got enough
left to put some gas in your car and buy a few incidentals. You also discover there is nothing romantic
about branding cattle. Horse crazy
means you’ll muck stalls and groom horses in exchange for English riding
lessons. Horse crazy means you still
own the saddle you had 40 years ago.
Funny thing is, it has shrunk over the years and no longer fits your
rear end. It is now a decorative item
in your western theme guest room.
Finally, horse crazy means you know the contentment of standing in a warm
barn and listening to horses eat and you’ll always look twice when you see
anyone out riding. You never get over
© 2012 Kristie Allison