My paternal grandfather, who died when I was very young, was a horseman who did construction-type work with teams of horses. My maternal grandfather was a breeder of Polled Hereford cattle. Both men furthered my love of the Western lifestyle and my love of animals.
As a grandparent, I have charged myself with making sure my grandchildren--I now have two, including a newborn granddaughter--have access to horses if their parents are OK with the idea.
What I mean is, I don't want to be a meddling grandparent, but I want my grandkids to appreciate horses and their surroundings. I believe we have a tremendous amount of influence over our grandkids--and what better way to get to know them than through horses. I know I'd much rather one day teach my grandson, Connor, and my granddaughter, Avery, how to groom and tack up a horse than to sit and watch them play video games all day.
Last Easter, Connor got to ride my mother's old horse, and he loved it. Many kids these days are at least one or two generations removed from the farm, from horses. I suspect that living in Houston, Connor will always be a city kid, and that's why it's important to me for him to learn about horses, their purpose in our lives and what it takes to care for them.
Recently, through my weekly email newsletter to the AQHA directors, the America's Horse Weeklye-newsletter and AQHA's Facebook page, I asked for our members and our fans to tell me about grandparents and the grandkids and horses they love.
Kenny Knowlton of Mairinque, Brazil
"My granddad was from one of the first families to settle in southern Arizona and was involved with ranching and, therefore, horses all his life. He was a good roper and won several state titles over the years. When I was 9 years old, he offered me half-interest in a Quarter Horse mare if I would break her for him. Of course, I thought that was a great deal and promptly accepted. I started her under his watchful eye. She bucked me off at least once a day for about two months. When I finally made it through a full round of bucking and was still aboard, I was the proudest kid in the world. After that day, it took a real tough horse to get rid of me!
"For my 10th birthday, he gave me the other half of the mare, along with the first saddle he had ever bought, an old Porter. We went on to win the Arizona state champion title in youth calf roping and?barrel racing. I have dedicated my whole life to the Quarter Horse and learned a much better method of starting colts. I have no doubt that it was almost exclusively due to Grandpa Woody's influence."
Nancy Winkelman of Clayton, Wisconsin
"My grandsons, Terrence and T.J., are 7 and 6, respectively. They live in town and have had limited exposure to animals. When they'd come to Grandma's farm, they were deathly afraid to even pet a horse.
"They now ask Grandma to ride. For kids that have to travel three hours to Grandma's and only get to ride two to three times a year, they are doing OK!
"They rode 4-year-old dun filly Smooth Holly Rey and practiced trotting on her. Then, they got on 2-year-old filly Ms Royal Merada and rode at a walk with a safety line. They ran out of time to ride 2-year-old filly AMR Renegade Star due to rain. T.J. didn't want to go home without riding all three horses, so we found time the next day to let him ride her, too."
Mindie Maus of San Pedro, California
"My daughter, Marley Mainwaring, shows all-around in AQHA and is qualified for the first time for the (Ford) Youth World. I am a single mom who works 40 hours a week and could never afford to give her what my parents have given her. I showed when I was young but not to the caliber that my daughter shows today.
"My parents, Sam and Kathie Maus, bought Marley her first show horse, Little Credit Needed. Seeing as they spent 90 times what my first horse cost, this was and still is the best gift I could have ever received for Marley. Grandma and Grandpa also surprised Marley with yet another world-caliber show horse, RL Impulse, whom they purchased at the (All American Quarter Horse) Congress in 2010. Marley has been showing all over the country for five years now and has placed in the top five in her first two Congress shows.
"Marley travels to each and every show with Grandma and Grandpa, and I fly in when work permits. I couldn't have ever dreamed that my 11-year-old would have two of the best horses out there, let alone qualify for the Youth World at such a young age. I owe all of this and more to my parents for the time, money and commitment they give to Marley and her passion."
Malisha Collins of Sunset, Texas
"I have had horses since my grandson, Payton, now 3, was born, but he has claimed one horse as his. Her name is Miss Kathys Gold, and she is an appendix Quarter Horse. She is 17 and a palomino, and he always calls to her when we go out to the horses. Payton has been in the saddle with me since he was 1, but last year, we ponied him on Katie, and she is very patient with him. He loves her and is as horse-crazy as I am."
Jodi Hunt of Oquawka, Illinois
"My Grandpa, Larry Henderson, had horses since I was born. Now 28 years old, I have had horses for six years. Grandma says that horses skipped a generation in our family--none of our parents have horses, but two of the five grandkids are horse owners.
"Grandpa worked the third shift at Maytag factory in Galesburg, Illinois, and worked cattle during the day. At 7 a.m. when he got off work, he'd saddle a horse called Jack and go check cows for a couple of hours. We grandkids would wait in the front yard for Grandpa, and when he came up the road, he would put us on Jack and ride us to the barn. It made our day every time.
"Grandpa passed away in September 2009 and Jack in September 2010. Grandpa inspired all of his grandkids with his horses and taught us a lot about them. We will keep riding and continue the horse legacy for him."
Doreena Lunsford of Garrison, Texas
"My wedding gift from my hubby in 2000 was a weanling palomino colt, Skippin Doc Gold. Our first grandson, Coy, was also born in October 2000. As our most-precious boys were approaching their first birthdays, we began introducing them to each other. We took Skippy to local shows, showing in halter, and Coy would tag right along. Coy rode with us on trail rides, and we bought him his first saddle as a birthday gift.
"Coy has begun doing some groundwork with the yearlings and 2-year-olds. Coy has a love for horses and a real natural talent that I believe has come from being raised with our horses."
After reading all of these comments, I appreciate even more how lucky and blessed I was that my grandparents furthered my love of animals and the western lifestyle. Now every day of my life, I get to do this as a job.