Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine • Since 1993
Idaho • Montana • Nevada • Oregon • Utah • Washington • Wyoming

HOME

Articles

Current Issue

Archives

Horse Sale Results

Past Covers

Photo Albums

Calendar

Calendar of Events

CLASSIFIEDS

Classified Ads

MARKETPLACE

Advertiser Links

Stallion Profiles

Business Profiles

Event Profiles

Horse Sale Profiles

Western Mercantile

ABOUT US

Contact Us

History

Green Information

Made in USA

Editorial Guidelines

Subscribe

ADVERTISE

Ad Rates

Distribution area

Camera Ready Req.

CLUB CONNECTION

Club Directory

Calendar

Competition Results

Extra News Section  

EXTRAS

Extra News Section

Health & Emergency Alerts

Horsepeople's Forum

 

 

Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Old Possum

My First Horse

Part 2

My First Summer on Horseback

By Heather Smith Thomas, Salmon, Idaho

 

October 2011 issue

  

     Possum’s pasture on the little ranch above town was about a mile from our house, but I happily hiked up there every day after school to see my beloved horse. At first the rancher, Mr. Kohl, helped me catch him. Possum didn’t want to be caught and he’d kick up his heels and head for the far corner whenever he saw someone coming with a halter or bridle. Mr. Kohl and I would corner him by the barn fence.

     After a few days, however, I was able to catch him by myself. I was very patient and it didn’t matter to me if there were a few moments (or even half an hour) of cat-and-mouse games before he allowed himself to be caught. I was never in a hurry, never got angry. I was in love with that horse.

     Maybe my lack of frustration and my easy-going attitude had an effect on the old horse. He realized I would just keep following him around until he gave in. He no longer trotted off to the far corner when I came to ride him.

     Maybe because he had such easy work, he didn’t mind the riding. I never rode him very fast, and our lazy sojourns around the edge of town and up the mountain were never strenuous, and I often let him stop to graze along the way. Possum began to look forward to our rides, coming to meet me at the gate whenever he saw me.

     The hardest part, for me, was putting his bridle on. I was short and he was tall. If he held his head up high, I couldn’t reach it. So I taught him to put his head down low, by giving him a handful of really lush grass or alfalfa, which he loved. Then I could slip the bridle on. There were some clumps of green alfalfa growing along the lane to Mr. Kohl’s house, and I always picked some on my way to Possum’s pasture.

     Getting on him was also difficult, since I didn’t have a saddle and was always riding bareback. I was too short to reach up and grab his mane and swing on, like I’d seen bigger kids do, so I had to lead him up to a fence, stump or some other object I could climb onto and then slip onto his back. I often used the wooden gate into his pasture.

     After school was out for summer I had more time to ride, and I’d usually spend the whole day with Possum. I had to clean my room and wash dishes first, but then I could hurry off to Mr. Kohl’s place. I’d ride all morning, ending up at our house for lunch, where I’d let him graze in the back yard. Mom or Dad would boost me back on so I could ride again all afternoon.

     My “twin” cousin and best friend (Diane Moser, who was born the same day I was) sometimes rode with me. We rode double, spending hours along the quiet back streets at the upper end of town or in the hills.

     Occasionally we were adventuresome and took longer rides, like the time we rode out past the other end of town to visit a friend who lived on a ranch. The biggest problem with these extended excursions was finding a way to get back on Possum if we ever got off. One of us could boost the other one up, but then the second person had no way to get on, and had to walk until we found a fence or something else to climb onto.

     Necessity is the mother of invention, and I figured out a way to get on Possum without a fence. He and I worked out a system. I’d lead him to a good grassy area, and while he had his head down grazing, I straddled his neck, facing his withers. Then he’d raise his head and I’d slide and wiggle to his back, turning around to proper mounted position. Possum didn’t mind, so that problem was solved.

     Diane and I also worked out a way to take turns sitting in front. It was always more fun to be the “driver,” in control of the horse, deciding where to go. The person behind was merely a passenger. But we had to be able to switch places without getting off the horse. Diane wasn’t brave enough to try the get-on-the-neck trick. So the person in front would scrunch down and scoot backward while the person behind would carefully go over the top of her and end up in front. Possum was patient and stood still, so we could do it safely.

 

 

     He was accustomed to children and all their antics by this stage of his life and was a perfect babysitter. There were times I left him in the backyard at Moser’s house, and all the neighborhood children came to see him. They’d pet him, walk under his belly, or run up behind him while he was tied or grazing, and he didn’t mind. He never spooked, kicked or bit. Even my mom finally quit worrying about the possibility of an accident.

     The only “accident” that happened that summer occurred when there were no people around, and it taught me an important lesson. I occasionally rode with another young friend who had a mare named Dolly. That particular day, Janet and I had ridden for several hours and stopped at my house to go inside and have some lemonade, since it was a very hot day. We tied the two horses by their bridle reins to an old power pole lying on the ground behind our garage, in the shade, next to the street.

     The horses stood there patiently for about an hour as we talked and rested in the house. Then suddenly we heard a loud banging sound. We rushed outside to check on the horses and found that the big power pole had been pulled out into the street. The neighbor’s garbage can was rolling down the street. Possum and Dolly were galloping away, heading downtown.

     We ran after the horses and finally caught them. Dolly’s bridle was broken and Possum’s headstall was completely off. I found it lying in the road with the metal bit bent and smashed, where the power pole had rolled over it. I tied the broken reins around Possum’s neck to lead him back home.

     Something had startled the horses, and one or both of them pulled backward. Since the pole was merely lying on the ground, it probably moved when the horses pulled back, rolling toward them and frightening them even more. So of course they tried to run away from it, and pulled it out into the road, knocking over the garbage can and the clatter must have made them pull even harder! They broke their bridles and ran off. My dad had to take Possum’s bridle to the saddle shop to have Mr. Stone straighten the bit and mend the reins and headstall.

     I learned a lesson that day. Never tie a horse by the bridle reins, and never tie to anything that might move. Possum got over his scare and was still well-mannered about being tied up, but if this had happened to a younger, more nervous horse, this bad experience might have ruined the training, making the horse untrustworthy for tying in the future. I tried to never do anything that foolish again.

     [to be continued]

 

Readers: Can you relate to this story? Go to “Forum For Horse People” at www.rockymountainrider.com.

Tell us about your childhood experiences with your first horse.

 

Click here to read Part Three

Click here to read Part One  

 

Heather Smith Thomas is the author of numerous articles and 20 books. She and her husband ranch near Salmon, Idaho . For more information about her books, visit www.rockymountainrider.com/Business_Profiles/heather_smith_thomas.htm.

     Heather’s blog online is: heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Back to Articles Page

 

 

Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine • Montana Owned & Operated 
PO Box 995 • Hamilton, MT 59840 • 888-747-1000  •  406-363-4085 • info@rockymountainrider.com