When I was 11 or 12 years old my Gramps bought me "Brownie".
My Gramps made a deal with me the spring Brownie came home... I remember his words exactly "Jennifer, if you master this pony by fall, and tend to her every need without having to be told, I will get you your horse."
Giddy with horse fever addiction I nodded yes and said "Thank you sir!" and ran off to "tend to my very own pony" not having a clue... not one.
Brownie was THE WORST PONY EVER! She was "saddle broke" which as an adult I now understand to be "She's had a saddle on but not much else". She liked to bite, she kicked like the devil... I braided daisies into her mane. I loved that pony as only a little girl could. Boy did we have our adventures! Through clothes lines, low branches, bolting, jack hammer trots... she taught me a lot about riding.. just being able to stay on through an entire ride was an accomplishment. I haven't found any pictures of my Brownie such a shame...
I mastered that brat pony! And in return my Gramps rewarded me with Blaze a Morgan/QH mare to ride, and a 3/4 Registered Arabian 2 year old named Alotta Sass to break and train... Seriously.. I was 13 and very spoiled!
Blaze was a great trail horse, a great show horse... when she wasn't in season. When she would try to kill you! No joke! So with Blaze and Sassy I joined the local 4-H group and began to really learn... and my addiction grew daily, hourly, by the minute!
|1983 - My first Horsemanship Class at my first Show|
We discovered that Sassy had been abused prior to us. It became pretty evident that as very young 2 year old she had been ridden.. and hard. Her mouth was pretty ruined, she was stunted due to malnutrition, and she had some psychological issues (beyond normal Arab flakiness).
First year of showing as a three year old, I was allowed to show in a bosal (boy have times changed) and that was a rough year for us.
|1984 ~ Sassy|
We sold Blaze as Sassy became more and more accomplished. Sassy was 'That Horse' for me. Her and I rode 1000's of miles, every where. Of course we continued to show... Western Pleasure on an Arabian was no easy feat I'm here to tell you!
|1985 ~ Sassy|
Through the winter Sassy and I worked on our relationship. We didn't ride much that winter but did a lot of ground work inside the barn. Standing, moving, talking, crying; I was a teenage girl after all and we cried at the drop of a dime! Looking back with perspective the things I was doing with Sassy then are now what the "new wave" trainers call "Natural Horsemanship".
|Winter 1985 ~ Sassy|
That next summer I was 16 and completely in love with my mare. She watched for me, she protected me... She continued to challenge me and my riding evolved into bridle-less.
My Gramps always jumped at any chance to show off abilities would have me "perform" that "trick". No trick - just walk, jog, lope no reins in figure 8's with proper lead changes, bridle-less, not even halter and rope. Sassy was happier, more compliant ridden in this manner.
We still had to use a bit at shows though... and we won every other color ribbon other than Blue but I never cared, and I'm fairly certain that as long as Sassy got her treat of Coke Cola and cake donuts she didn't care either.
|1986 ~ Sassy|
I miss that mare, and those simple days of not a care in the world, so long as your stalls were clean, your horse was fed and water trough full and clean!
**EDIT** Sydney asked me what happened to Sassy. I wasn't going to add that but it is an important part of my journey so here goes. My grandparents sold the farm and my mom's house was on the property. My Gramps signed Sassy's registration papers to me and only me. I had trusted my mom to send them in. She didn't. In the early spring of 1988 just before I graduated from high school, my mom told me she sold Sassy to a riding stable in Detroit and they were picking her up that day. My mom didn't have a good reason as to selling my horse and I vaguely remember something about "It's time to grow up." I still don't understand why and mom's not around to ask. In writing this, I'm realizing I'm still a bit angry about it too. I didn't own another horse, nor ride competitively or even recreationally again until I bought Bonnie 7 years ago. I did try to find Sassy when I was in late 20's but was never successful, I even checked the Arabian Horse registry but she was never registered again.