Archive for June, 1996

PostHeaderIcon The Journey Starts -06/21/1996

This is the first of many articles to come about the world of horses and fox trotters from my viewpoint. I thought it would be important that you meet me and understand the floundering data base from which I operate. Firstly, I’m classified as a beginning adult rider.

 I raised Shetland ponies in my youth, branched up to a large pony and did all the small town horse show speed events—poles and barrels and pleasure classes. After I outgrew my large pony, I had an American Saddlebred and I only competed in western and English pleasure in the small town horse shows. My life with horses stopped at age 18 when I went away to college. I had given up on ever getting back into horses when suddenly my husband and I lost our minds, sold the house on which the mortgage was but 3 years from being paid off and bought several acres and a house in the country. We are now soundly saddled in debt and loving every minute. Naturally, the 1st thing I thought about was… HORSE! I’ve had a 35 year gap.

What kind of horse? I dislike the quarter horse pleasure class with dead looking things, noses dragging on ground, but quarter horses could be fun in other areas. I loved my beautiful heads-up American Saddlebred, but I didn’t have much fun just being in pleasure saddle classes. I remember how high spirited she was too! Scary, now! I loved those racing events-pole bending and barrel racing in my youth.

I attended the American Royal Symphony of Champions and I saw my horse! I was seated by a complete stranger who was chatting with me throughout the show.  In danced the gorgeous fox trotters with their smooth gait and their long flowing manes and tails. I sat up. The stranger knew lots about Missouri Fox Trotters and told me about their start and history…cow chasing, rocky hill climbing, smooth riding. “Self,” I said, “There is my horse! They are beautiful like my Saddlebred, fun like my quarter-horse type large pony. I’m old now, and if I go incontinent, the smooth gait will prevent me from having to wear diapers when I ride.”

That’s how I made the decision to get Missouri Fox Trotters as my horse. I knew no one who had fox trotters and the Internet wasn’t even in my vocabulary yet. That was 1996.

Everyone I knew who had horses told me to buy older horses. Ha! I knew better than that. Didn’t I show as a youth? Didn’t I have a wonderful trainer and I remembered lots of stuff. I would be bored with someone else’s trained horse. Nope, I love to train horses and I want to start my own. No one else’s problems or boring old horse for me! Besides, I saw a John Lyons look-a-like start a two year old in a round pen, and he was riding that horse in 3 hours. I paid a lot of attention plus I rented the video and watched it 2 more times. (My husband was the only person who supported my decision. He knew less about horses than I did!)

I picked my two year old Sage because of her color, and my yearling Velvet, because she was black and had a beautiful head, out of  herds of Missouri Fox Trotters owned by Robert Lewis, Butler, Missouri. Bob delivered them, and I proceeded to start the Round Pen Reasoning. What a horse Sage is. Instead of the 3 hours, it took me 3 weeks before she stopped running away because of noises, flapping, touching.

My husband happened to be in the round pen with me when I 1st put the saddle on Sage. Right in front of our eyes, she turned into a rodeo bucking horse. She exploded. The frightened spouse and the bucking monster both took off running around the round pen. I had to scream at the spouse to get into the center where it was safe. He didn’t know the rule about center being time out and the fence being the run-around part. That was a 3 wine  bottle event!

The round pen with Sage was a great experience until I mounted. That was a wine-bottle event. We just stood there wondering what to do, until I reached up to adjust her bridle strap, and in the spouse’s words, “Sage spun around 3 times, but Susan only made 2 trips!” That’s when I discovered that I was old, fragile and could easily be killed! Hitting the ground was not in the plan. Whose bright idea was it to buy young horses?!

We decided that the answer would be to find someone “young and dumb”…enough to ride a two year old. I had Sage ready to be delivered to 3 different trainers in the area. I canceled her out from all 3 as my instinct (at the last minute) said, no ..can’t trust them with my precious partner.

I stumbled into a clinic that was held near my house and that’s when I discovered Parelli Natural Horsemanship, which saved my life. My horses and I have both been “started” by Jenny Vaught. I recovered from a terrifying year of horse fear. I have learned far more than I ever dreamed, and I have the two safest horses in the world to ride.

I’m a member of the Kansas City Regional Fox Trotter Horse Association and MFTHBA.

I’m a bit of an odd duck. My Parelli equipment looks real weird. I have different ways of thinking and doing. I’m shocked when people actually come up and talk to me! I quest for answers in all the horse philosophy worlds. I’ve agonized over the gaiting of these two horses. Sage turned into a pacer and it’s taken a lot of time and agonized thinking on my part, but she’s turned into a running walk horse. Velvet is a “trotty” horse, but is actually fox trotting after spending a summer in professional training with Jennifer Vaught.

I haven’t yet decided what I really like to do in the horse world other than train. I’ve decided that I love trail riding and rode in two Competitive Trail Rides. I also just recently stumbled across a Doctor Buggy, fell in love with it and bought it. Sage is just finishing her professional training as a “buggy horse” and I perch on the edge of joining a carriage club. I attend and ride in clinics and take volumes of notes when I audit.

I’m over 50, overweight, dieting, and excitedly living my second adulthood. I’m a spoiled red-headed only-child. I have a tiny bit of disposable income which I just pour into horse stuff. I’ve wrecked our new pickup truck twice all by myself… this year…no other vehicles involved. ..just me and the trailer.

This is the start of SUSAN’S VIEWPOINT in the horse world with my beloved fox trotters. I’ll be reporting clinic events, carriage driving and trail riding. I’ll be agonizing over the gaits. I’ll be talking about versatility events. Join me!


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