I had an eye for horses at an early age.
At three and four I was using the toilet brush to brush horse legs and bellies. I learned that I could get up on almost any horse by scrambling onto the neck and then to its back.
In the car, I watched for any and every trailer behind a car or truck, knowing it could be holding a horse. It took me a while to realize that U-haul trailers did not, in fact, hold horses….but when I could spy a trailer with real live horses, my face was pressed against the window, hoping to see a tail or a flash of horse.
I entered every drawing for a “free pony”.
I cut pictures out of magazines of show horses and imagined having one of my own.
I collected Breyer horses and named each one. I had Ginger and Moonbeam and Dotty. My birthday money would buy more.
Sounds like a horseless kid?
We had horses.
We had several horses.
But it didn’t matter.
I had the bug.
At horse shows, I would haul water to them in my plastic bucket and go down the line of tethered horses, cleaning hooves and giving leg brushings because that is what horses needed. Why I was never kicked or stomped, I don’t know. I probably should have been mortally injured.
I was probably that kid you hated because they wouldn’t stay out of the way.
I spent countless hours riding on logging roads, with a saddle bag slung across my horse’s withers and my dog faithfully following behind. I was Lewis and Clark… Pocohontas… Vasco De Gama…
It was a huge expanse of woods, trails and creeks, leading to the beach – a paradise.
I mostly went alone because my sister was not quite the explorer I was. And she didn’t have the “bug”.
Until the summer I made a neighborhood friend.
Jessie. She lived a mile down the road. I ran into her one day while exploring.
She had a burro.
His name was Poncho.
And then it became us on the trails.
Picking blackberries, finding quail, looking for bears – and trying to stay on that burro.
We scouted the neighborhood for other horses because it was good to know what kind of horses lived on your road.
And then one day we found Lady.
Skinny, tied in the front yard of a very poor family, not getting enough to eat – and lame.
She hadn’t been there yesterday, we exclaimed to each other.
She needs to get out of there and get real care. Even we knew that.
We didn’t have any money…
We must get jobs.
We were ten and eleven. We washed cars, we babysat, we begged on behalf of the horse down the road.
In two weeks, we earned 25 dollars and offered it to the family who had Lady.
We proudly took the girl off her tether and ponied her home – me, Jessie and Poncho. An old TB mare, fused ankle on the back – but happy to go with us.
She went to my friend’s house to be the burro’s companion and quickly grew sleek and beautiful. She remained lame the rest of her life but spent the rest of her life with the burro and my friend. They were buried on the farm side by side. Poncho and Lady.
— Rosemary Collins