Tag archive: horse
I hope you continually:
Chip away at the obstacles that prevent you from doing what you love
Add to the myriad of layers that make you unique and interesting
Ignore how society attempts to define you
Seek counsel from others
Spend quality time with old folks
Listen to everyone’s opinions and then formulate your own
Learn from the negative experiences in your life as they will shape you as much as the positive ones
Embrace grief and pain but don’t let it mire you in depression
Tell and show people often how much you care about them
Roll with the changes
Let go of the past
Find new tribes
Try new things
Eat weird foods
Take care of your body
Experiment with your hair
Do things that frighten you
Expand the borders of your comfort zone
Acknowledge your fear but don’t let it confine you
Recognize that life is short; breathe each breath as if it were your last
Live in the moment and find contentment in the now
Look for beauty in the mundane
Connect with nature
Laugh at yourself
Laugh a lot
Take a stand
Defend your choices
Admit when you’re wrong
Find joy in bargain hunting
Permit yourself to spend some of that savings
Know that you are a work in progress until the day you die
Smile even when it hurts – it’s more for you than other people
Recognize when you’re not gifted in the thing you have passion for
Find passion for the things you are gifted in
Share your gifts and talents
Say NO when it’s warranted
Say YES because you can
Ask for help
Be brave and courageous
Allow yourself to make mistakes
Show kindness, mercy, and compassion
Grant others grace when they’ve screwed up
Allow yourself to ugly cry once in a while
Choose honesty over deception
Don’t let others take advantage of you
Build a reputation for being a person of your word
Give your very best effort in everything you do
Ignore both flattery and criticism
Desire to keep learning
Believe in your own worth
Build a relationship with God
Live YOUR life
And finally, a word from my dad for when that horse bucks you off and you get the wind knocked out of you:
Get up out of the dirt, brush away your tears, and
Get your ass back in that saddle!
Thursday July 16th and Friday July 17th – Leaving one home to find another
Happy sunshine streamed in my window at an early morning hour and signaled me to get up and get moving; my month-long sojourn in the land of my birth had come to an end (read Part 4 here) and I awoke rested, refreshed, and ready to get back home to my husband and animal menagerie. Most of my belongings had been shipped out via UPS the day before and I had taken the time to pack almost everything to be carried on the bike before going to bed. Even though the tantalizing prospect of returning to my hunny and critters was pulling me southward, it’s always tough to leave the farm; no matter how many times I’ve done it over the years the pain is always just as fresh as it was the first time. Waving goodbye to my folks while they stand on the back lawn always makes me cry. They put up a brave front pretending not to be sad but I know they’re just waiting for me to get out of sight before they let their own waterworks flow. BUT, there’s no crying on a motorcycle (it fogs up your shield) so I stuffed back the emotion and focused on the job ahead. After all, the zombies don’t care if you’re emotionally fragile, they’ll eat you just the same. I’ve never heard one say (on film anyway), “Pardon me, is this a convenient time for an encounter?” Nope – buckle up buttercup and get your gameface on; it’s time to kick some ass.
I’m sure I’ve complained enough over the years and many of you already know that I simply abhor driving through Pennsylvania. It’s the bane of my existence. If I could skip the whole state I wouldn’t mind the drive between NC and NY at all. Any of you reading this who’ve had to make the same journey more than once knows what I’m talking about – Route 81 guarantees to have the ever popular and never-ending construction delays and the Poconos will most assuredly have some sort of crappy weather regardless of the time of year or forecast (fog, rain, snow, fire and brimstone, plaque of locusts, etc…). ~ Insert heavy sigh ~ Since I was forced to take that route on the way north, I was determined to get in a bit of sightseeing on the way south. PA must have something enjoyable to offer and I was going to find it. Unlike the outset of my journey, I hadn’t spent a month pouring over the atlas and Google Maps plotting my return trip. I figured I would plan that out when I got to NY but instead, I put it off until the last minute meaning I would pretty much have to wing it. My brother had been driving a tanker truck all over the roads of NE PA all summer so he had a good handle on which routes were looking decent and which ones might pose a problem. With his counsel, the night before I packed up I made a quick assessment of things, booked a B&B in Virginia and wrote a few quick directional notes to stuff in the clear window of my tank bag for easy reference.
Honest to God, I not only had a very enjoyable ride though PA, but it was the first time I can ever remember smiling and wishing it would never end! FOR REAL! When you get off the highway and ride the rural roads, you can see what a beautiful state it is. Every little town was quaint and welcoming. I wasn’t in a hurry, per say, but I was focused on getting to my destination, so I didn’t dawdle on this trip and I didn’t take nearly enough (or hardly any) pictures. Someday I’d like to take the same ride and take quality pictures of every church I pass to make a coffee table book. Every single one in every single town was a work of art. And then quite suddenly and completely unexpectedly I was thrust into the Lackawanna State Forest near West Nanticoke in Luzerne County which turned out to be one of the highlights on my impromptu route. That was a fine motorcycle ride indeed which had me rambling down twisty roads following a gurgling stream surrounded by wilderness galore. I DID get a picture here!
Picturesque towns and amazing landscapes were things I would have expected to see in good ol’ PA but I did, however, pass a a few things which caused me to double take, snort out loud with laughter, and made me wish I had turned around to get a snapshot. I saw (as big or bigger than life) Bigfoot, King Kong, bandits posed on top of a roadside saloon, a green tyrannosaurus rex and a purple triceratops. NOT. EVEN. JOKING. Apparently the folks in PA have a love affair with ginormous concrete statues. I’m kicking myself for not getting pics of any of those.
Onward I rode until I reached the point of having to check my GPS to be sure I was taking the right roads to my aforementioned B&B reservation at Zion Springs Bed and Breakfast. I wasn’t lost and I felt confident in my ability to read signs, but I wasn’t really sure I was on the right path either. You see, a couple of roads before I was to arrive at my destination, I found myself on a one-lane, tricky gravel
motorcycle trap, er… road. Was this correct? The B&B reviews all said what a fine establishment it was and it ranked at the top of the list of places I googled for that location. Yep, GPS said I was right on track. Ooooookay….. so let’s just keep riding. Thank God for dual sport tires! A couple of nerve-wracking miles later and the highly rated place of lodging appeared like a beacon on a hill. WOW!
It was a stunning locale and I got to ride right past horses in their pastures. And not just any old horses. I was right smack dab in the middle of Virginia horse farms with obviously very expensive equine operations. Oh be still my heart. Someday I’d like to live in VA and have my own horse farm in the gentle rolling hills and temperate climate. The innkeepers were so conscientious they left me an email with instructions to check myself in since they were away from the home when I got there. I called to let them know I’d arrived and was welcomed with all kinds of information on where to eat, things to do, and amenities they had to offer. Honestly though, I had packed enough of my own food to last me for several days and I wasn’t in the gallivanting mood, so I simply settled in for the evening quite early and retired with a glass of Milagro Anejo tequila and a well-read, but never-the-less enjoyable book.
The next morning, I made an appearance on the beautiful deck overlooking the back valley where my gracious hosts and other guests were conversing, simultaneously introducing myself for the first time and saying my goodbyes. They offered to pack my bags with some home-baked goodies for the road since I was missing out on the breakfast, but I couldn’t eat them anyway with my allergies, so I politely declined. God bless them. It was such a pleasure to just roll in, crash, and roll out with no fuss.
I couldn’t resist stopping at one of the horse farm fence lines on the way out to get a picture of my steed in front of the real ones. Real. That word always reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit. Before the house fire (our house burned to the ground when I was a kid), I received that book for a birthday or some other gift-giving occasion and it was an instant favorite. I replaced it as soon as I could (along with another favorite, A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson). I wonder if my Falcon looks at the horses with their swishing tails, gleaming hides, and snorting breath and wonders when it too will become real. It’s real enough to me. Love makes it so.
From here until I arrived at my front door in North Carolina, the trip was predictable, uneventful, and very pleasant. No zombies to behead or Bigfoots to get blurry photos of. I made lots of discoveries about the places I thought I knew and about my own intestinal fortitude. I came home a changed woman. However, the bite of the road warrior had infested my blood with a yearning for more. It wasn’t long before I succumbed to its viral fever again. There was a certain infamous Dragon (or at least it’s tail) calling my name. Being a superhero is a full-time job, and the Falcon and I were called into action before we were fully prepared for another battle. Time to don the cape and wig, here we go again….
But before I expound upon the next adventure, I’ll take time to recap some of my lessons learned on this one. Read the next installment soon to pick up some advice on what to do or what not to do on your own solo road trip adventure while I compose my thoughts on how to relay my little Dragon Tale.
I wrote this to for my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Bruce at the request of my cousin, Tammy. Thought it would be fun to share publicly. Enjoy.
Memories of the West Coast Family:
Uncle Bruce, Aunt Sherry, Timmy, and Tammy
As remembered by Colleen Ann Guest, 06/10/2013
I’m perhaps either the laziest person on earth or the biggest procrastinator ever! I don’t put things off until the last possible minute because I don’t care about the thing I should be doing, in fact it’s usually just the opposite. Sometimes a task is daunting to me because I do care so much about how it turns out. So rather than do the “right” thing and get a good start on it so that I’ll have plenty of time to revamp and redirect if I need to adjust the direction it’s going, I get paralyzed and think to myself that I’ve got TONS of time so I don’t need to commit to this just yet. Well, I’ve been burned by my own inadequacy in recognizing the passage of time once again.
Much to my chagrin, my dear cousin; your THOUGHTFUL, CARING, PUNCTUAL daughter; called me the other day and cornered me about my lack of response to her ever so gentle request for a simple thing like a note for your scrapbook – and the request came with plenty of time to provide a FABULOUS response. I’m a loser. THIS is why I don’t plan parties for people. I’ll be late to my own funeral!
I wish I had lots of funny, witty stories about you guys. I have lots of second hand ones from my folks, and I’m sure there might be some that you would be just as glad for me not to repeat. But those are THEIR memories. I have my own too, but given the distance between us they aren’t as first person as theirs. So here are some of my rambling memories; the things that really stick with me. And perhaps, just perhaps, waiting until the last minute has its advantages. The things that come to mind quickly are the ones that have the deepest impressions.
When I was little and my birthday would roll around, my mom would make a nice effort to have a birthday party for me. With so many aunts and uncles (and cousins – not as many then as what I have now though, but still a lot) the parties always involved tons of family. Most of the family lived nearby and the parties were pretty large and happening. But my mom and Grandma Eaton were always very careful to point out that Uncle Bruce and Aunt Sherry couldn’t be here and that I was to take special note of their cards and gifts. They always showed me your pictures and told me stories about you. I felt like I knew you even though we hadn’t met. And I don’t know if you ever knew it but I used to count how many cat or kitten cards I would get. I knew it was going to be a GREAT year if all my cards had a feline on the cover! There were times you sent me one of those treasured cards and I just KNEW that you loved me and “knew” me! To this day there are two people (besides my mom) that can be counted on to NEVER miss my birthday with a card – Aunt Sherry and my dad’s sister Aunt Linda. So for all the years you tirelessly sent cards with no apparent thanks, it doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated! I tear up when I get your cards!! THANK YOU!!
Another strong memory is of time I spent at Grandma and Grandpa Eaton’s house. They kept your pictures on the wall over Grandma’s chair. You know the place – the wall to the right of the archway to the dining room if you are standing in the living room. I used to gaze at those pictures and imagine what kind of people you were and wondered if you thought of me at the same time I was thinking of you. Sometimes Grandma would catch me looking at the pictures and she would take them off the wall so I could look more closely. And then she would tell me stories about Uncle Bruce as a child. Gosh I wish I could recall some of those! And then there were all those AMAZING sugar Easter eggs with the little scenes on the inside that Aunt Sherry made. I LOVED those!! I used to beg Grandma to bring them out of the cupboard and show me up close. (It was difficult to really see the scenes on the inside from through the glass.) She would gladly oblige and she handled them so gently and with such care. She used to tell me that I had to be VERY CAREFUL – they were delicate works of art and couldn’t be replaced. She just adored those and all the other artfully created things that Aunt Sherry made (I don’t want to say “crafty” – that cheapens them. The things you made were ART!)
And then there were all the times Grandma and Grandpa would go to California to spend time with you guys. They would come back FULL of stories and pictures about all their adventures. We would sit around the dining room table with the pictures all over and they would go through them one by one and tell us so many things about each image in enormous detail. I could see so much more than what the picture alone held. I yearned badly to visit Disneyland and the national parks! I would dream about it and imagine what it must be like in real life. They made everything they did with you guys sound like the grandest adventures and everything there was bigger than life! It made things seem so “usual” back here. I was actually a bit jealous of Timmy and Tammy. Even though I had the grandparents all to my own all the time, it just seemed like their time in Cali with you guys overshadowed anything they ever did with us. I know that’s not true at all, but to my little girl self it was hard not to make comparisons. I knew it was wrong to feel those things, and I was ashamed to admit it so I never said anything – I didn’t want to be a brat – that would have hurt my feelings if anyone thought ill of me for feeling that way. They got so much enjoyment about recounting their adventures that I wanted to hear everything in spite of my own jealousy. Their faces glowed with such love and pride when they talked about Timmy and Tammy and they always looked so refreshed and relaxed when they came home. I lived vicariously though those vacations!
But FINALLY, I got my wish – I got to meet you all! It wasn’t in Cali like I’d hoped, but I was THRILLED to have you all back home on my turf in the summer of 1977. I thought my other uncles were tall men, but Uncle Bruce was a true GIANT! I was tickled beyond belief that he picked on me just like Uncle Roger, Uncle Gary, and Uncle Alan!! He WAS one of us! And then I got to get a real hug from Aunt Sherry! Not just a card, but a real life hug! And those things cemented that you both were everything I imagined you to be! And for the first time I got to play with my west coast cousins. I was worried they would think we weren’t good enough and that NY wouldn’t ever be as awesome as California. But I was wrong. They loved it here as much as I felt I would love it there. I fell in LOVE with Timmy and Tammy! I remember showing off my horses to them and how Tammy especially was smitten with them. We spent a lot of time in the barn together and she was like a little sponge – asking questions about EVERYTHING and soaking it all in. She was eager to know all about the horses. She was a girl after my own heart. And still is!
So there it is. My fondest memories are the oldest ones. And those are the ones that come to the surface in a hurry. When I think of all of you, I think of those specific things before I start reminiscing about other times in more recent years or before I recall the many stories my mom and dad tell about you. Now how much of this is relevant to your anniversary is questionable but they’re the things that make me smile when I think of you. I love you both so very much!! I’m so blessed the Lord brought you together so I could be related to some of the most awesome people in the whole world!
With love and tears (I just read this out loud to Neel so I could proof it and now I’m crying!),
Have you ever loved a horse so much that your entire life was altered by his very existence?
And have you gone to bed dreaming of him before you ever met him and then spent the rest of your life reminiscing about him after he was gone?
I have . . . and so did my father.
The following is an essay my father wrote in 1946 when he was thirteen years old and home sick with the measles. It tells the story of a boy who desperately wanted a horse of his own to love, ride, and teach tricks to, and the little black stallion that fulfilled his childhood dreams.
About 2 years after he wrote the essay, his 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Brooks, read it and asked him to re-write it for an essay contest, which he never did do. It’s worthy to note that Mrs. Brooks was quite fond of my father because he and his trusty stallion chased down her runaway horse and saved her one day, quite like another story he relays in the essay.
My dad and mom are full of tales about life with their horses but it’s a special blessing for me to have a copy of my dad’s original handwritten account regaling his love for and adventures with his all-time favorite steed. I didn’t edit the content of the essay; I only added some punctuation marks and a few stray words here and there that he inadvertently left off in his original writing. I’ve even left the paragraph structure intact exactly as he had written. He’s fully aware of my additions and has approved the minor edits. I wanted to leave the story as original as possible so that we are reading exactly what he, as a thirteen year old boy, had written in 1946.
There are footnotes below which give insight to the timeline of events and offer details rounding out some of the circumstances of which he writes. Of special note is number 9 – he’d like the reader to be sure to understand that he knows you don’t beat a horse to train it. Those words came from an inexperienced child and he went on to learn the finer art of communication with his horses. If reading footnotes aren’t your “thing;” I urge you to at least read that one.
And now, I present to you….
A True Story of a Horse
Written by Stephen Loren Illsey, 1946
Edited by Colleen Ann Guest, 2013
This is a story of my colt and I. But I must start at the beginning.
I was a boy at the age of thirteen  and I had always wanted a horse of my own. My mother had had several horses since she was a little girl and she thought that it would be nice for me to have one of my own, but little did either of us dream that it would come true.
My mother went one day to visit her sister who also lived on a farm. They got to talking and she told my mother about a little colt they had on the farm. He had been tied there most of the winter and they carried feed and water to him because they were afraid as he was a stallion, and he had tried to strike them when they tried to lead him.  Then mother went to the barn to see this little fellow who was only six months old at the time. On first sight she fell in love with this pretty little black colt for he was black as coal. Mom wanted to take him outdoors but her sister said that he would strike her; but Mother took her chances and fixed a twitch and put it on his nose and in no time she led him from the barn.
Oh yes, he did try to act up, but Mother was too smart for him, and the first thing he knew was that he was sitting on the ground. Then she called my cousin who was about thirteen, very light for his age, and sat him on the colt’s back. Once more she started leading him but what happened is he laid down. My cousin jumped and rolled away from him; he was scared. Mother said to him, “Where are you going? I’ve still got a hold of him.” But he only answered back, “I’ve heard stories about stallions before and what they’d do if they got you under them.” Mother laughed and said to herself, “They are really afraid of this little fellow.” Then she thought to herself, “Why don’t we buy him for ourselves?”
Someone had named the colt “Highboy” so we kept calling him that although the name didn’t quite occur to me. 
Mom came home and talked to Dad about getting the colt, but Dad didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it. Then Mom, seeing that she wasn’t making any progress with Dad, said, “He is a nice little colt and has the most intelligent looking head and every bit of him is pure black.
It was about a week after that and Mom and I hadn’t been making progress with Dad about the colt, or at least we didn’t think so, when one evening Dad and Mom were reading the paper and my brothers were playing or something, and I was thinking about how good it would seem to have a colt of my own to teach tricks to. I never realized how hard the task would be.
Then before anyone realized it, a truck stopped in front of the house. A man knocked on the door and my father went to see who it was. I could hear them talking in low tones but I did catch a few words. “Surprise” was one, and then I heard “he” and “fine” and a few others that didn’t make sense.
Then Dad called Mother and me out to the truck. And there it was – a small horse about the size of a pony. “There,” said my Dad “is your colt. Now let me see you unload him.”
At first I started to walk right up in beside him, but then I stopped all of a sudden, thinking, “What if he should kick?” Then I looked at him again and said to myself, “Well, if I’m going to handle you, I better start now.” Again, I started to walk up in beside him, but this time I didn’t hesitate. I untied the rope that held him and thought that I could push him out of the truck backwards, but that was useless. So I turned him around and tried pulling him out, but still, he wouldn’t budge. Then Mother said, “Here, let me help you,” and the next thing I knew was that he was standing right on the ground beside me. “How did you do it?” I asked looking very much puzzled. My mother explained, “Oh it’s quite easy when you know how.”  Come to find out, Dad had hired the man to go and get the colt. 
About a month after that, Dad told me that I had better start teaching my colt tricks because pretty soon he would get too big for me to handle, By the end of five months I had taught him quite a few tricks. Each one taking more patience and time, until I thought that he was the dumbest animal that ever lived; but one by one he caught on, and finally I had him so that he responded to each one of my commands. 
Soon after that I thought that it was about time I started in riding him, so one day I went to the barn and fixed my mother’s saddle and bridle to fit him. He didn’t mind my putting either one of these funny looking things on, but when I got them on him, boy, did he ever look awkward! Then I took him outside and before he realized what was going on I jumped aboard and hanged on for my life, expecting any second to go flying and hit the ground, but to my great surprise, nothing happened. Then I patted him and tried to urge him on but that didn’t go so good. So I kicked him in the ribs and yelled but he still wouldn’t move. So I got off and took him to the house to show my mother how he acted but this time, things were different. Instead of me jumping on I just took my time and the moment I was in the saddle I was out again. I picked myself up out of the dust and blinking my eyes, I looked around and there stood Highboy. I think that if he could have laughed like a person he would. “Why you tricky little mule,” I hollered as I went up to him. “You wait until I get a strap, I’ll teach you to buck when I’m not expecting it.”
So I got myself a strap and once more got on. But instead of just standing still or bucking he took me for one of the scariest rides I’ve ever had. All of the way down hill he ran just as fast as he could go, jumping everything in his way until he finally reached the main road, but not stopping for cars or anything. Neither talking nor pulling on the reigns did any good. But finally he did stop and when he did, he did it so quick that I found myself on the ground sputtering and yelling at my colt. I was so confused and puzzled about my new experience that I hadn’t stopped to think about what would have happened if we had collided with a car or if he had fallen. I was still so shaken up and every bone ached that I decided not to beat him and the expression on his face showed that he was sorry. 
A little while after that I got a new bridle and pretty soon I had him responding to each turn of the reigns.
After that my mother and I rode often together because she also had a horse.
One day two of my mother’s friends came up and wanted to ride although neither one of them could ride very good. We had four horses, so we let the girls ride, but we only had two saddles so we let the girls ride in them, so my mother and I rode bareback. Mom warned me that I shouldn’t ride Highboy bareback, but I finally succeeded in telling her that nothing would happen; but I was wrong.
We were riding through the fields, when one of the girls started running her horse. Then we all started.
We were going pretty fast and Highboy was in the lead. I wanted to see if anyone could catch me. I had forgotten that the girls couldn’t ride too good but I guess that luck was with them. All of a sudden highboy turned around without me expecting it. I didn’t have time to catch my balance before he turned again and then I fell.
All that I remembered is that somebody was talking to me. I woke up again to find myself home. The doctor was there. I asked what had happened but before anyone had time to answer I found out. Pains shot through my right arm and into my head. The doctor told me to lie still; that my wrist was broken.
Three or four weeks after that, my arm healed quickly. Highboy was turned loose in the pasture. My brother was walking in the pasture when all of a sudden Highboy started to chase him. My brother turned and ran toward our dump rake in the pasture. First Highboy would run one way and then the other way around the rake. My brother yelled and hollered hoping that someone would hear him.  Just by luck, I happened to be outdoors and I ran to see what the trouble was. I crossed the fence and ran down to the rake. Highboy stopped all of a sudden and looked at me. I knew at once that he meant to chase me also, so I ran right up to him before he had a chance to move and hit him. At once, he cowered and moved back .I hit him and then I had him in my power because sometimes if you show a stallion that you’re not afraid (of) him, he’ll calm down.  After I assured Highboy that I wasn’t still mad at him, everything was alright.
One day when I was riding, my saddle appeared too tight for Highboy, so I got off and loosened it. My mother said that we had better water the horses so we rode over to the creek. Highboy naturally just put down his head to drink. All of a sudden I felt myself slipping. Before I could do anything about it, I landed into the creek. I never heard anyone laugh before like my mother did. I guess that she laughed all of the way home.
Another time my mother was riding a horse that we boarded on our farm. The horse got to running with her towards home and she couldn’t stop him. We had ridden up to the neighbor’s house to buy a dozen of eggs and I was carrying the eggs when the horse that my mother was riding got to running. I didn’t know what to do, so I started after her on Highboy. Luck certainly must have been with us both that day. The road was slippery but yet I urged Highboy on. I knew that if the other horse ever tried to turn into our driveway at the speed he was going, he would fall down. Faster and faster Highboy ran. The wind blew hard against my face and made tears come into my eyes. But before I knew it, I was reaching out and pulling on the other horse’s bridle. I guess Highboy saved the day. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget tell you that not a single egg was broken.
Not many more things happened after that. Highboy was conquered and was at last ready to obey me.
Not hardly a day passed last summer but what my mother and I had ridden.
We are looking forward to a colt from our mare of which Highboy is the sire. 
It’s my great misfortune that I never knew this horse because he died in the spring of the year I was born. The mares on our farm had several foals sired by him, so I knew quite a bit about his temperament through his offspring. My mom had a feisty horse named Penny and the foals they threw were quite mischievous. I remember vividly one incident in which my brother and I had gotten chased down by one of those horses; it seems that chasing was apparently in their blood! She was a mare named Pride and I fondly recall her living on the farm and even which stall she occupied in our barn. At some point she had been sold and we went to visit her a few months after she left us. My dad sent my brother and me up the hill in her new pasture to call her down, and when she saw us, she came barreling down the hill after us. No matter which way we turned she snaked behind right on our tails. We thought for sure she was going to catch us and KILL us! We ran for our lives and bolted through the fence rails just as she was about to catch us. But when she got to the fence, it appeared that she was in fact happy to see my dad, despite how antagonistic she appeared to my brother and me. He had her trained to rub her muzzle on his cheek when he asked her to “give him a kiss,” and she happily obliged when he asked her on this occasion. It was the last time we visited her, and although I really liked that mare, I was glad we didn’t have to go through the chase ever again. Whew…my heart still beats fast in my chest when I think about it and I can almost feel her breath on the back of my neck to this day. I’ve got other, perhaps more harrowing tales with horses, but I was never more scared of a horse in my life as I was that day running for my life down that hill. If you ask him, I think my brother will attest to the same.
For the Love of a Horse
I am so very blessed to have been given a legacy of the love of horses and the ability to communicate with animals. When my dad speaks of his mother saying that it’s easy to handle a horse when you know how, I get it! My grandmother and parents taught me how to communicate non-verbally with all of our animals and that knowledge transcended simply training them. A phrase my dad used while working with me and the horses was, “Horses and kids – it’s all the same. If you can raise a horse you can raise a child.” I took that to heart and I’d like to think that it was valuable information which aided my parenting skills. But before I was a mom, my horse Sugar was my child, my best friend, and my soul mate. When everything else in my world went wrong, my horse would always be there to make it better.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my mother is an accomplished horsewoman herself and she spent countless hours helping me train the new foals on the farm and breaking the horses. She too has her own stories of how horses were the saving grace in her life. Long before I did the same, my mom, being troubled and not able to sleep, would go to the barn in the middle of the night and grab her horse for moonlight ride. I find it humorous and fitting that I sought solace in the same exact way.
Growing up on the farm with a barn full of noble creatures at my beck and call was an enviable position and I can’t imagine how different my life would have been without horses. It’s a shame that we’ve come so far in our civilization that these beautiful companions have been relegated to either occupying a place in history or their company is only enjoyed by a select few. They could teach us all so much about life, love, and loyalty, and their mere presence is therapy enough to give us the courage to face life and tackle our mental, spiritual, and physical foes.
The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears. ~Arabian Proverb
 My dad was born in January of 1933 and he and his family moved to the farm (the same farm I grew up on) in 1944. He was 11 when he got Highboy in 1944 shortly after moving to the farm, despite his telling that he was 13 in the story. He is about 6 months younger than his cousin who he also tells is 13. But after confirming the details in a phone conversation on 02/09/13, my dad and mom agreed that Steve must have been 11 at the time of acquiring Highboy and not 13 as he wrote, which means that his cousin was probably 12 and not 13 either. Steve must have written the story at age 13 which would make sense given that the horse had matured at least two years during the course of events he described. This time frame works out as my mom is certain Highboy was put down in the spring of 1966 which would make Highboy 22 years old at the time of his death. And that rings true to both of my parent’s recollection.
 Another of my dad’s cousins lived in Pennsylvania and raised Standardbred horses. One of his mares had been bred by a Morgan stallion and Highboy was the resulting foal. And there was a reason his aunt and her family were a bit scared of Highboy even though he was just a young colt. He had reared up and struck his aunt’s husband in the head and they had wanted to get rid of the horse after that incident.
 The truth of the matter is that the horse was named Highball, after the alcoholic mixed drink. My dad strongly disliked that name and had a devil of a time convincing his father that he had to change it. They finally came to an agreement and the name Highboy was settled upon.
 My grandmother had a gift of communicating with animals. She could seemingly talk to any animal she came across and I recall many instances where she would have wild creatures eating out of her hands. She took the time to observe their body language and respond to them in ways they understood, and she was patient beyond measure. Several of us have inherited her gift and have benefitted from her mentoring, but she was truly was The Queen of the Animal Kingdom.
 My grandfather traded a tag-a-long trailer for the colt is how my dad’s family came to acquire him.
 I asked my dad to tell me about some of the tricks he had taught Highboy as that was such an integral part of the early pages of the story. He said that he taught him to shake hands, kneel, lie down, sit up, and stand back up. While the horse was lying prone on the ground, my dad would back up several paces, run at him, place his hands on Highboy’s body, and doing a handspring flip over him and land on his feet on the other side. This was a favorite trick among the neighborhood kids in town. He also taught him to answer yes or no questions. To teach him that particular trick my dad had to prick Highboy in the chest with a pin. Highboy would bend his nose to his chest to rub it as if he had been bitten by a horsefly. After some time of repeating this he got so that my dad would only have to make a motion towards his chest and he would nod his head in a “yes” fashion. Similarly, my dad would take the pin and prick him between his ears and Highboy would shake his head as if to shake off a biting fly. Again, after he was trained my dad just had to make a slight motion towards his head to get him to shake his head “No.” My dad’s very close friend helped him and together they taught both their horses to do all kinds of tricks. I believe one of them was putting them both on a teeter totter together, but they stopped doing that one for fear of hurting the horses as Highboy had slipped off the board a couple of times. They took their horses to perform at schools and other local events and the kids would love to ask Highboy questions and get his yes or no answers. If the children got a yes or no response they weren’t expecting, my dad would quickly reply that Highboy didn’t understand the question and they needed to ask it again. And this time he would come up with the right response much to everyone’s delight.
 My dad also told me more of the story surrounding his first “ride” on Highboy. His father slapped highboy on the rear which launched him on the runaway ride. They ran down the hill, across the road and continued down to the creek on the other side. The creek wasn’t as deep as it is today but it was still quite deep. The reason they came to a stop is that Highboy couldn’t jump out of the creek and slammed his chest into the side of the creek bed. This sent my dad over his head and landed him on the ground.
 I’ve been raised around a lot of horses with my dad and mom, but my dad maintains that Highboy was by far the smartest horse he ever knew. My dad could take Highboy to the horse shows and never had to worry about him being a stallion around mares. Even when a mare was in heat all he had to do was whistle and Highboy would always come right to him. Apparently though, he was also the craftiest horse he’d ever known. Highboy would chase someone down in a heartbeat and he just knew a non-horse person when he came across one. My uncle, who was chased in the story, was apparently a constant target of Highboy’s and he was chased quite often. My mom recalls a few incidences when Highboy was being devilish. One time they were fixing fence and my dad set a hammer on top of a fence post and Highboy took the hammer right off the post and ran off with it. Another time my dad set down his shirt and either the dog, Samson, or Highboy picked it up. One thing led to another and shortly the two were playing tug of war, each with the shirt in their teeth, which culminated in Highboy lifting the dog off the ground while spinning around in circles.
 It is very important to note that this story is written from an inexperienced boy’s perspective and that he didn’t ever really “beat” his horse in a manner in which would be considered harmful or abusive. My father has long since gained knowledge and understanding of how to communicate with and train horses that don’t require hitting, beating, or other methods of intimidation. He would be mortified if the only impression left after reading his essay is that he understood little more of horse training than physical violence and brute force. Horses are highly intelligent creatures with feelings and are quite capable of understanding what we ask of them if we ask in a manner they can comprehend.
 The mare was a large, gentle work horse; perhaps a Percheron, named Mary. She had actually been pregnant with twins and gave birth to a filly and the remains of the twin were found in the afterbirth. Highboy had also been kept for stud purposes and besides the horses on the farm I remember, there were plenty of his offspring spread around the community. Through them, I know he lives on today.