To say I was “Horse Crazy” in the 60’s is like saying “War and Peace” is a good book or the “Mona Lisa” is a nice painting, it doesn’t begin to give an accurate description. Mom said I came by it naturally because her father loved horses. Add to that the television genre for that time period was Westerns and it is no wonder I grew up believing my life was incomplete until I had a horse. We lived in San Diego and not only did I not have a horse, there were none close by and I didn’t know anyone that owned one. As I set my goal on saving enough money to buy one myself, I got by with a lot of creativity and imagination.
Barbie dolls took a far second to my “Buddy-L” horse hauler, complete with three plastic horses. A B-B gun was another favorite Christmas present…all of the television cowboys had guns and rifles. I tied tin can lids to the back fence with a piece of string and would stand on the patio and shoot them, making them spin. We hunted in the canyon behind our house. No sparrow was safe, but I found out the hard way that shooting a dove would break your heart.
I am still amazed my first horse never pitched me. It was a picnic bench placed upside down at the edge of our picnic table. I had one belt circling the bench, another was the stirrup leather and a third was the stirrup. And I actually put all of my weight into the stirrup and mounted my horse just like you’re supposed to, from the left. Once mounted, I kept my right leg curled on top of the picnic table. Two dog leashes fastened to the “X” of the upturned bench were my reins. I would open a book on riding that I had checked out from the Bookmobile whenever I could find it and practice mounting, holding the reins and proper foot placement while riding. Between my riding lessons and during the weeks I didn’t have the library book, my imagination took over. I was riding all over the Shiloh Ranch with James Drury, “The Virginian” or I showed up at the Texas Ranger’s headquarters in “Laredo” as Captain Parmalee’s long lost daughter and got to hang out with Joe, Chad and Reese. Joe Riley, William Smith, was my personal favorite until he put on an eye patch and shocked me bykilling Nick Nolte at the end of “Rich Man, Poor Man.”
I had set my monetary horse purchase goal at $300. I kept checking the San Diego paper classified ads to see how many were for sale and for how much. Trying to reach a $300 goal when you were given twenty-five cents a week allowance was rough. It did teach me the value of a penny. During one of my many investigations of the classified ads, I saw a boxed ad stating that if a certain car dealership couldn’t put you in a new car, they would give you $100. One hundred dollars would be a major step towards my horse purchasing goal. I called up the dealership and told them I wanted to buy a car. When they asked my age, they told me they couldn’t do it. I tried to collect the $100, but they wouldn’t do that either. Another of life’s lessons learned – if it seems to good to be true, it probably is and nothing comes easy.
Someone finally gave me a subscription to a horse magazine that I read like a bible. I was going to be fully educated when I became a horse owner and rider. Thanks to an article in that magazine and a patient Basset Hound, I can still create three different kinds of halters with a length of rope and a loop.
Yes, I finally did get my horse. When I was 16 my father gave me the ultimatum, you can have a horse or a car, but you can’t have both. I chose the horse. The other catch being I was financially responsible for all horse costs – feed, vet, blacksmith, etc. Once again, nothing comes easy.
But horse crazy doesn’t end when you get your first horse. Horse crazy is your mom catching you leaving the house for school with your spurs on, skipping classes to check out western stores and horses for sale, and your best friend’s mom knowing she’ll never have shrubs in front of her porch because that’s where you tie your horse. Horse crazy is riding too late at night and returning home along side the state highway with a flashlight so the traffic can see you in the dark. Horse crazy means that while every other senior at your high school heads to Florida for spring break, you and your best friend drive to Colorado in search of cowboys. While the rest of the seniors are off to a lake for Senior Skip Day, you’re riding all over town to meet up with a couple other horse crazy classmates for a full day on horseback. When you finally return home that day and dismount, your legs are like rubber and you can’t even stand up. A Saturday night of raising hell was shoving a couple bottles of Boone’s Farm into a bag of ice and heading over to the horse auction. You and two of your friends never failing to elbow each other and comment that we should have signed up for a number, that was a fine looking horse and he went cheap.
When you’re horse crazy, instead of going away to college you head to Montana and work at a dude ranch. Once they take the room and board out of your pay, you’ve got enough left to put some gas in your car and buy a few incidentals. You also discover there is nothing romantic about branding cattle. Horse crazy means you’ll muck stalls and groom horses in exchange for English riding lessons. Horse crazy means you still own the saddle you had 40 years ago. Funny thing is, it has shrunk over the years and no longer fits your rear end. It is now a decorative item in your western theme guest room. Finally, horse crazy means you know the contentment of standing in a warm barn and listening to horses eat and you’ll always look twice when you see anyone out riding. You never get over horse crazy.
© 2012 Kristie Allison