Jane at 12, with Her First Horse

My first-horse photos don’t involve spiffy riding outfits, ribbons, helmets and smiling judges. Dang it.  That is the planet on which I wanted to live. I resided on the “I Want to Still Be Alive at 5 pm, Please” planet.

In my box of old photos, I found a picture of my first horse: Spitz ‘Em Out, daughter of Chews ‘Em Up.  Or “Chewy”, as he was known, on the Pro Rodeo circuit.  If you check out her confirmation, you’ll see it lines up perfectly with what she was bred to do.

My parents didn’t know there’s a certain amount of hinting that goes on in registered names.  Not horse people. They also came from a generation of  “Learn By Doing”.   Which I dutifully followed until the hospital bills started rolling in.

Photo #1: Jane is 12, and has finally managed to scrub all the green, yellow and brown out of her white, roaned-out and unspotted, but purebred, Appaloosa.  Spitz is four, with 90 days training.  By the 16-year-old son of the ranch owner.  I’m guessing he invented the bicycle chain mechanical hackamore.

When not hanging out at the above lovely boarding barn, getting thrown on the way to the arena, thrown in the arena, thrown coming out of the arena, or thrown in the pasture, we took advantage of the barn’s natural trail geography…

…and rode in the ditches next to the (live) railroad tracks.  That were bordered by barbed wire.  I did not yet own a saddle, so all this “riding” (which mostly involved falling off and walking long distances barefoot) was done bareback.

I discovered that Spitzie (I had to call her something that didn’t sound like Phlegm) forgot all about tossing me if I let her flat-out gallop in the ditch and race the trains.  My friend Amy, and her horse Fatso, frequently joined us.  Fatso was a ranch broke quarter horse, so I was often able to hitch a ride back to the “boarding” facility behind Amy after I fell off.

At times, I would coerce Amy by saying “I don’t feel like walking a lot today, want to go trail riding with me?”

We began noting my progress as a rider by which telephone pole I managed to reach before falling off.  We marked them with chalk, so we wouldn’t get confused.

Ah, learning to ride: two telephone poles forward, one telephone pole back.




19 thoughts on “Jane at 12, with Her First Horse

  1. LOVED your story…
    I had a similar beginning when it comes to horses.
    I rode ANY horse I could talk the owners into letting me ride, and considering the likes of the mounts I ended up… it’s amazing i lived through it all!
    I have lovely memories of being bucked off over ponies’ heads and then run over… dragged across pastures by the stirrup…. bucked off INTO jumps, bucked off after jumps, run away with, rolled over on….
    I am sure many people can relate!
    Somehow I never stopped loving horses despite it all.
    And thankfully the ones I have now are much more docile!

  2. Yikes, don’t want to monopolize comments, but feel like answering. Let’s see:
    @Carol, never thought about quitting. Too happy to have a horse! It has given me amazing instinct into what the horse is going to do next. Best teacher I ever had, that horse, I am so grateful for every twist, buck, skitter, drop and scoot, I can’t tell you.
    @Lissa, I loved that mare. I had her until she was almost 30 (colic). I did so many knuckleheaded things on her that it did empower me, in a goofy sort of way.
    @Anna, I think my angel was hitting the overtime. Nothing worse than bruises. Ever.
    @Aarene, you would have loved this mare. Spunk personified. Would have made a HECK of an endurance horse.
    @Kimberly, I was ready to kill to get one. Probably scared my family. 😉
    @Jane, I was 5’6″ when I hit ten, and that’s what I’ve been ever since. She wasn’t a big horse. I was looking at later photos, and it’s clear Spitzie is bigger in the later photos. I am now questioning if she was four years old when I got her, or really three, or 2 and 5/6ths. 4-year-olds don’t usually grow in height a good 6 inches…

  3. Spitzie.. was short 4-year-old or you were a very tall 12-year-old?? Not knowing a whole lot about horses, I just remember looking up at a very big animal the first time I went riding around the same age.

  4. Love this! Such great photos. I’m tempted to post some of me around age 8 with my pinto pony of unknown breeding and heritage. I took a lot of long walks with him too….

    1. How fun! If you’re up to it, love to see them.

      Hey, maybe we should have a remember when day? If anyone decides to post first horse/starting out pics of themselves, let me know and I’ll link to you. If you don’t have a blog, and feel comfortable with it, send the pics to me and I’ll post ’em here.

      It’s quite encouraging for me to see the old photos, and know how far I’ve come. (This basically boils down to now I know people TEACH riding, and I can take lessons. ;))

  5. I’ve been told you have to come off 100 times before you can ride. Sounds like you made that quota in well under a year. I’m not quite there yet.
    I was 21 when I got my first horse, a 10yo arab gelding with no training beyond riding down the road. I was at about 25 falls before I got him from trail rides and working cattle horses, but he never bucked and I could ride his occasional pig-roots. What he did do was stop dead from a canter, dip down and spin sideways in one fluid movement without notice. We call this a “spook”. I came off about 30 of these before I got the hang of his spooking and was able to stay on during such nimble and balletic movements. I’ve only come off 6 times since I had to sell him, and about 10 times riding other horses during the time I owned him, so I’ve got a few more falls to go before I can ride, but they’re coming further and further apart now.
    wow. essay. done now.

    1. We like essays here. As well as haiku, and one word comments. You’re good.

      Those are some awesome spooks you’re sitting.

      The 100 times rule is a great one to tell beginning riders, given they’re not currently shaking at the walk. It’s so much easier to try stuff if you know part of riding is the risk of falling, or getting tossed, off. There’s a little known proviso in the rider handbook: you can get away with less than 100 falls if you work hard at staying on. I missed out on that provision, but I have a feeling you’ll make it!

  6. OMG! I had that horse too! Her name was Duchess, a half breed (thoroughbred and some large pony), built like a quarter horse and “trained” to race at local fairs, purchased by non-horsey parents. She was impossible to stop except by lining her up on a fence too high to jump. Her favorite sport was trying to scrape me off on low hanging tree limbs and cutting my knees on the metal tabs of rural mail boxes. Like you, I spent a good deal of time walking….

    Ah, such memories!

    1. Probably from the same breeding facility. I’m sure she had a half-sister named Duchess. 🙂

      I’d forgotten about learning to duck, yank my leg out of the way, and turn her head so her nose would hit the rail instead of me, if she tried it again.

  7. Too funny! I would have given up a body part to have my own horse at 12. Even one that liked to toss me off.

    Luckily she wasn’t very big. And the ground seemed softer back then, as I recall.

    As a NYC kid, having my own horse just wasn’t in the cards. I rode every weekend at the barn and traded ride time for just about anything. I did get to ride in a saddle but some of those horses sure were interesting rides!

    Can’t wait to hear more.

    1. I. Was. In. Heaven.
      Never occurred to me to get upset about falling off. I had a horse!!!! Luckily, a short one. The Teenager Principle was liberally applied. My horse couldn’t care less about me one way or the other, but I was convinced she adored me, which eventually made her attach to me. Every waking moment: consumed with horse thoughts, on horse, planning for horse, walking back to horse…

  8. I learned to ride “by the seat of my pants” too! Traded mucking for riding, but no way my neighbor would let me use her fancy show saddle, so, yep, bareback for a couple of years. Great for learning balance. I’ve done the “between barbed wire and railroad tracks” thing, too, but luckily mot a very well used spur line–never met a train (tho I lived in dread that I might).
    I was going to ask why you didn’t just find a rock or stump or something, and climb back on…but it occurred to me that perhaps Spitsie made it a practice to head back to the stable without you?

  9. I would have killed to have a horse like that when I was twelve. Heck, I would have been thrilled to have had an unruly mean-tempered oversized Shetland pony when I was twelve. I can’t wait to hear more!

  10. doggone it Jane! There’s PEANUTBUTTER TOAST ON MY KEYBOARD now. And it’s your fault.

    Just so you know: aspirating peanutbutter toast = not as much fun as it sounds.

    I am such a slow learner.

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