We all have those memories of the first horse that we could actually call “our own”. Maybe it was a sassy little pony, or a gentle schoolmaster, maybe it was a show horse with a mind of his own, or a borrowed lesson horse…whatever the breed or discipline, that “first horse” will always hold a special place in our hearts. This week I caught up with a few local equestrians and asked them to tell me a little bit about their “first horse”.
Tanya Janckowski – Los Alamos
Tanya’s first four-legged partner was a pony aptly named “Snickers”…because he looked like the candy bar. “Honestly, I have no idea exactly ‘what’ Snickers was in terms of breed, but I believe he was a cross between a POA (Pony of America) and a Shetland. He was small, but he had the strength of a full sized horse…and he knew it!” Tanya explained. “On our first ride, he bucked me off, but my parents bought him anyway. Back in those days, falling off wasn’t as big of a deal; it was just something that happened occasionally.” Tanya rode her Snickers for three years in 4-H events, doing everything from Western Horsemanship to rodeo type events. “That little guy would take the bit and basically do whatever he wanted no matter how hard I pulled, but I think it made me a better rider.”
Brittany Miller – San Luis Obispo
“Bobby” was a retired Quarter Horse from the show ring, and was already 18 years old when Brittany brought him into her life. I got into horses a little late; I was already 25 years old. “My family thought I was crazy to get into horses during my last year of college when I barely had the money to pay for rent and food, but I made it work by cleaning stalls and helping out around the ranch that I boarded Bobby at up in the Bay Area,” Brittany explained. “Bobby was a gentle giant, at 16 hands and 100% muscle, even though he’d been out of the show world for a few years. A few health problems made him a walk/trot only horse, but that was fine with me; I hadn’t ridden anything except a couple of lesson horses up until that point.” Bobby paved the way for Brittany to get into the Quarter Horse Show world, and at 26 years old, he is now her second horse and is teaching her young daughter the ropes.
Terry Bryant – Buellton
“My family has had horses since before I was born; my mother jokes that I was riding in the womb,” Terry laughs. “But my first ‘real’ horse was an ex-cutter named ‘Jenny’. She really gave me a run for my money. I can remember one of our first lessons when it seemed like no matter what I asked, Jenny did the opposite. If I wanted to walk, she trotted, if I wanted to canter, she’d only walk. We obviously had a few things to work out.” Terry rode Jenny for 2 years and learned the ropes of the Cutting world, of which now she is heavily involved. “Without that mare, I don’t think I would be where I am today. I’m glad she challenged me the way that she did, because it made me a better rider.”
Sarah Williams – Grover Beach
I grew up with horses, had a pony at 5 years old who was the kindest thing in the world, and a POA that I rode until I was 10 years old, who was as arrogant as they come, but my first “real horse” was a Half Arabian Mare named “Jeanie”. Jeanie is the horse who got me into the show ring. I rode her for about a year before my parents were able to buy her for me, and we showed about once a month from the time that I was 11 years old up until I started college. She taught me just about everything that I know about horsemanship, the show ring, how to deal with a “picky horse”, and how to really understand the mind of an animal. I kept her until she was 29 years old and had to be put down on Christmas Day after a long bout with arthritis and kidney issues. I’ll never forget her or the places that she took me and the things that we did.
Everyone can agree that our first horses are what shaped us into the horse people we are today. They taught us valuable lessons about patience, dealing with challenges, and about how to follow our passions. So, think about your own “first horse” today and smile, because that’s a memory you’ll never forget!
Main image: Sarah Williams and “Jeanie”