My niece is learning to ride on Kelsey, ?her? horse.? it's fun to watch her figure out riding and put our advice to work. SHe's a real natural, and sHe's improving rapidly on a very obstinate mount. We haven't allowed her to canter yet, but I know sHe's just aching to do it. My sister and I, her ?instructors,? constantly remind her of safety issues: Heels down! Tighten the helmet chin strap! don't let your horse run up on the tail of the other horse! You don't need to put your face in front of the hoof when you pick out her feet ?. . . Mackenzie?s mom, my other sister,?was just as wild and crazy on horseback as the rest of us. She also?knows those days are long gone and we have very strict barn safety rules, so hopefully she doesn't worry. ? I'll bet you remember those days, too, way back when we didn't know any better. We only used a ?helmet? (the old apparel things) when we showed, and we rode bareback as much as we did with a saddle. Those horses must have been quite fit, as we really only walked ?the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes? of every ride. I remember mounting our horses from the rear and trying other ?vaulting? exercises. We crossed deep streams we knew nothing about and made daily trips to the ?racing field.? We jumped anything we didn't think was too big, including a snowmobile and even a dead cow?my horse was the only one who would get near it.? We all developed very independent seats and an absolute fearlessness about trying anything on our horses, all of which must have been equine saints to put up with what they did and allow us to survive. Ah, but they were fun times. it's no wonder my mom would pick us up at the barn--yes, we were basically unsupervised, another modern safety no-no--and ask, ?Any incidents or accidents today'?? (Fortunately, kids instinctually know about that secret pact that keeps them from spilling the beans to adults unless absolutely necessary.) What brings this topic up today is that I just found this photo of my sister Eileen, who turns 50 tomorrow (Sshhh! don't tell her I told you!). SHe's standing on her Thoroughbred gelding, who looked like hell but was as kind and gentle as they come (clearly, my parents knew how to buy horses). ?His name was Red, and Eileen got so tired of entering shows and having the secretary ask, ?His name is just Red'? that she actually renamed him ?Just Plain Red.? He might have been ?plain,? but he was a classic we'll never forget.