I’ve been so surprised since I moved full time to Cuchara, with the reaction I’ve gotten from longtime friends in Texas. They are all so shocked that I’m now a country girl. However, I’ve been a country girl most of my life. I just never dreamed I’d raise my kids in the city and live in a sprawling urban area for 30 years. I did live most of my adult life in the city, far from any kind of rural area. But, that’s not how I started out when I was a kid.
I was raised with horses from the time I was eight years old. I remember, as a child, my parents taking us to a carnival of sorts every weekend that was off Buffalo Speedway in Houston, Texas, where I grew up. I remember my favorite pony was named, Sister, and I asked for her every week when we went by after church, lunch, trip to the museum and then to the pony stables. In those days when the only electronics were a black and white TV, family outings were a “thing”.
Because I loved being on a horse so much, when I was 8 years old my mom bought me english riding lessons. I learned to ride “flat Saddle” as they called it back then. I thought it was boring. However, Somehow I later made the leap to riding Hunt Seat Equitation and then making the jump to riding hunters and jumpers.
My riding coach when I was a preteen, was named Colonel Darling. Trust me, he was no darling. He yelled at us constantly, “heels downs, fanny up”. It was grueling and all I wanted to do was to be flying in the air going over jumps.
When we bought our first horse, Dolly, she was approximately 10 or 12 years old, had only be ridden western pleasure. Dolly had plenty of bad habits, but she was the perfect horse to learn on according to my parents.
So Dolly and I began our career on the hunt course together. Shortly after, we moved to Lubbock, Texas from Houston and stabled Dolly with a family outside of town near Reese Airforce Base. It had a large riding ring, a round pen, about 12 stalls and a huge hunt course. It also sat right in front of a pig farm. Fortunately the wind in that part of the state always blows from the south so we rarely, if ever, smelled those pigs, but Whew! On ocassion all that it would blow from the north, it would take you down! Additionally, we were surrounded by acres and acres of cotton fields.
In the fall when those cotton field were plowed, the DeRosa kids, who stabled our horses, and I would take out on our mounts and race lickity split over those plowed rows. I guess one reason we ran so fast is so the farmers couldn’t catch us! We never got caught, and it was fun as hell!
Those were also the years we decided to breed Dolly and we had a filly named April. The day April was born, Dolly was in the paddock next to the fence, and April was born on the other side of the fence. I remember that morning well. We got a call that Dolly was in a panic and the poor filly had no idea how to get back inside the paddock to her mom. It was also a challenge for us, trying to manuveur a newborn back into a pen.
April was a year old when she died. It was the first time I had ever experienced any kind of death in my life. She foundered and died within hours of a twisted intestine. In those days there was nothing you could do. Probably still, nothing you can do, but it was tragic and I remember grieving over that filly more than I did when my parents died. It was horrible.
To ease the pain, the DeRosa kids, who we stabled with trained me how to go over fences. The had a 17 hand Appaloosa Gelding named, Shiloh and they told me he could jump a 6 ft fence. At first I thought it was a dare, so I remember I made Mike DeRosa go over it first, and then again, and again. The horse seemed sound enough, so I decided to go for it. It was like flying! I had never done anything so daring in my life and it was a huge adrenaline rush. So much so, I did it a second time.
In the years following, our family finally moved to San Antonio when I was a freshman in high school. We bought a 10 acre property in the city but across the street from the county line. The house sat on an acre with a large circle drive in the front. The pasture and barn backed up to a railroad track that was used very little. I only remember a train running through on odd occasions.
The ground in San Antonio is very rocky and for the first year we lived there, mom made my brother, sister and I go out every day after school and pick up rocks. Ugh! It was back breaking work and we saw little value in it. Little did I realize my mom was teaching us a lifelong work ethic. We would all learn from picking up rocks in that pasture how to work hard and endure when we felt like quitting. I don’t know if she realized what she was doing, or if it was an accident, but it definitely taught me my work ethic.
We actually were able to build a real rock wall with all the stones we gathered. This was our first fence we used for jumping. We added cavaletti’s and smaller fences. Since my sister and I had learned how to jump fences while in Lubbock, we went full tilt and began competing in eventing.
Some of my fellow competitors stabled their horses at a commercial stable where there were ranch hands that mucked the stalls and groomed the horses. However, Mom and Dad made my brother, sister and me muck our own stalls and groom our own horses. We braided manes and tails. We cleaned our horses hooves and coated them with oil. We fed them and loved them. Later in life I realized this is where my work ethic came from.
Mom and Pop surely knew what they were doing. My siblings and I are some of the hardest working humans I know because we spent all those days picking up rocks……