From the archives: Peanut

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Peanut and Deedee’s personalities captured in a picture, Aug. 2008.

Once upon a time, I had a blog over on blogspot.

I think I started this one just after I had began high school, and I’m now so glad I didn’t delete all my ramblings when I abandoned it sometime in 2011. They give me a lot of insight to myself, and I find them endearing/amusing to read. So, I’m going to share this post I made at 15 years of age in all of its unedited, naive, teenage glory, along with comments/questions from 23 year-old me in bold.

Well, this will probably be the start of a long list of posts about my little pony, but since I haven’t been to the barn for a few days, I’ll write about how/when I first got my first horse.

Spoiler: this was the only post I made about Peanut. Fail. BUT, I like 15 yo me’s ambition.

I’ve had Peanut, a grade Quarter Pony, since I was in 5th grade, which is hard to believe seeing as I’m now a freshman in high school. It was just after the barn I was at changed ownership, which is an entire story in itself, but I digress. Anyways, the stable had just changed ownership to one of the borders, and three other men. None of them were very horse savvy, and me and my father had the most experience of the lot, which is not saying much.

By experience, I mean at this point I was 11 and had been riding for all of two years, and my dad had worked at a horse farm in high school. The three men had all of zero experience, and the boarder’s experience was limited to about a year’s worth of her daughter’s riding lessons. But yes, you all hardly know each other so this is a great idea.

Anyways, the main owners, whom I shall call the Mainers, had a daughter, whom I shall call Little Mainer.

My creativity is off the charts. Mainers, because, they are the main owners. Also, prepare yourself for an over-embellished story of a tween rescuing a pony from certain death.

Little Mainer had just gotten back the first pony she had ever had; Peanut.

The majestic beast herself circa 2007

The Mainers had given Peanut to the previous owners of the barn who had neglected her and thrown her out in the back fifteen acre pasture that was entirely brambles and weeds. I saw her once in the pasture, and though her feet were overgrown, I was of course none the wiser and saw nothing wrong. She was fat enough, at least. Fast forward from that time to then, when they brought Peanut in from that pasture. She had lost quite a bit of weight, and her hooves were horrid! (this is not overly embellished – all of the horses left looked like shit, and leading up to the owners skipping town, two or three horses had died on the property) She looked around with big eyes, she hadn’t seen this barn in months. The last time she was inside was sometime the last winter when Little Mainer had owned her and convinced me to get on her and try to make her go forward, because she couldn’t get her to. I did succeed in getting the ornery little pony to move around the arena one lap, and then they promptly told me that that was enough. And so she went into that pasture… Look at me talking like some all knowing horse-whisperer. More likely than not, I was watching my peer longingly and they took pity on me and allowed me a few minutes of saddle time.

So now, as Little Mainer (who is two years younger than myself) stared in disgust (doubtful, remember this is embellished) at the pony she had thought was gone for good, she rolled her eyes to the right longingly so that she could see her new horses stall. The big, sixteen hand sorrel, registered, Quarter Horse. I don’t remember her registered name, but we called her Peachy. Her eyes then shifted with what seemed an internal sigh back to the problem in front of her, and she spoke to me in a bored voice, “Do you want her?”
Me: “Well… actually, I think I’m kind of looking for something I could event with later… and I’m not sure if I could afford her”
“She’ll jump. And you don’t have to pay board if you and your dad work. Otherwise we’ll probably take her to the auction since I’ve got Peachy”. This part actually happened, and I totally did think an auction was the worst possible fate ever (not 100% wrong there). In all reality, neither this 9 year old or myself had any control over this situation, but it all seemed very serious and weighty, and I totally believed that I was the only one capable of “saving” the derpy pony in front of me, despite her not being the “eventing” type I was looking for *eyeroll*.
This, somehow, sent off little bells in my head. Auction = slaughter. Auction = bad owner, which means another auction, which means slaughter. Auction = Baaaad.
Mother and Father = Don’t want a horse.

“I’ll take her.”

And so, I was a horse owner. (I was totally not a horse owner. Thanks for actually working that out later, Dad)  I had no clue about her age, or her breed, or her height, but I owned her. Yes, this seems like a great idea. Like a box of chocolates!!  As my dad came back in, sweaty from fixing a fence, I gloated to him; “Dad, we’ve got a horse! They gave me Peanut!” I think I saw him go a few shades paler from his current farmers tan, but maybe my minds playing tricks on me. Now, fully armed with a pony and tack also given to me, I was ready to ride… or so I thought.

Peanut was not to happy about leaving her semi-feral state. She wanted to play wild horses when I, being the scaredy cat rider I was, wanted to simply learn. Hah. Bet you can see where this is going! I didn’t ride nearly that entire summer. It took my dad going out to the pasture, grabbing her halter, and having her mighty 500 (probably like 800; I have no idea how she was skinny out in that pasture, unless it was literally weeds and dirt) pound self drag him up into the air and toss him like a rag doll for a few minutes to get her caught. I was terrified. Also happened – but, my dad is like 5’5″ and it wouldn’t really require much to get anyone in my family off the ground. This was not exactly an eventing horse here… sure she was the fastest horse on the property, outspeeding the ex-racehorse (that was a lumbering Standerbred trotter…), Quarter Horse, POA, and Paint horse when they went on their nightly laps around the pasture (competition was fierce y’all), but did she ever jump anything? Uh-uhhh. It also started to click in my head that there was no way she could be fourteen point two hands… although it took another year for me to actually measure her. I did believe Little Mainer when she said, quickly, that her age was “just 11”. When I did ride my pony, it was breifly. I was down-right scared of her. Though I managed to stick out a two minute bucking session on Peachy and nearly had made it through a bucking fit on their new Paint mare Abbey just a few minutes earlier, I was scared of a little pony. (almost I tell you, almost did I ride that mare through her bucks! I don’t think it was very good of them to put me on that Paint mare for her first time in the outdoor arena though… of course I couldn’t resist :) It didn’t matter that she had nearly ripped off Mrs. Mainers thumb when they had gone to trailer her her… but I digress again). Wow, I don’t sound conceited or patronizing at all. I had all the confidence in the world, except with my own little 13 hand pony. She was totally too much pony for me at the time, and for a while I resented her, and the barn owner’s daughter, who had not one, not two, but 5 decently trained horses to ride. Jealous tween probs.

Even though I didn’t ride her much, I watched her that entire summer, seeing as we went out there every single day for my dad to work, I had plenty of free time. Watching her was one of my favorite things to do. Still true; I would love to have another summer morning of opening the stall doors and watching the rag-tag herd high-tail it out the end of the barn and through our makeshift chute to their pasture where they all played with the sun coming up and dew still sparkling on the grass.

She was such a gorgeous little thing, with so much pride. She was the silent leader of their little band, and it was quite obvious. She was never truely mean except for the first week Lady, the ex-racehorse, came into the pasture, when she simply would not let her near her ‘herd’. Whenever that sixteen some hand tank tried to kreep up, she was run around the pasture for a good ten minutes to learn her lesson. After that, Lady, and the others, did not mess with Peanut. And, this entire time, I spoiled her. Spoiled her with treats, though she never did get greedy or nippy. She always, and still does, gently nibble it from your hands, keeping her teeth far from fingers even if they are stuck right up into her mouth. (Don’t ask.) Finally, that fall, I mustered up the courage to ride… really ride her. I was ready to go… and so was she.

That’s all for tonight, I’m tired :) AH THE ANTICIPATION!! What will happen next?!

reminder: I never wrote another post.

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What I take away from this? I totally had a mild savior complex at the time of writing this, and the people who bought this barn, while certainly inexperienced, were triers. They had good intentions and, unlike previous owner, actually cared for their horses. They wanted this place to return to its former glory that was chronicled in our local newspaper a few years before, but just didn’t have the experience and time to fully rehab and promote a 20-acre boarding facility. Nonetheless, the two summers I spent nearly 8 – 10 hours a day out at this place are special, full of lessons and stories that I can only appreciate after the memories themselves grow hazy.

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Find what shaped you

It’s important for me to make this one of my first posts because horses have helped shape more than half of my life. In the words of M, “You know where we were at in our lives based on which barn we were (are) riding at.”

I didn’t know where that first ride was going to lead me.

I didn’t know just a week or two before that I had met one of my best friends. In all reality, I don’t remember a whole lot about this day. Had I known, maybe I wouldn’t have nearly fallen out of my chair in eagerness when the girl sitting next to me the first day of class asked if I’d like to go with her to her riding lesson.

Maybe I wouldn’t have, but if I’m being honest, I was already in deep by that point, and if it wasn’t then, I’m fairly certain it would have happened eventually.

Previous to this rendezvous, I had begun third grade and was now in the big elementary school. It was late August (none of this last week of July shit back in my day) during the first week of classes, and though it was debatable as to whether I was carrying a backpack or it was carrying me, I determinedly made my way to Miss B’s classroom and dropped myself front and center, ready for learning.

It’s a good thing I was ready for some learning, because I needed to make up for my baby alien endearingly-awkward-stunted looks. There’s a reason a girl, who 1) would later become one of my best friends and 2) wasn’t even in my class, therefore having little to no interaction with me, called me the weird gummyworm lady. I was rocking some serious goggle glasses that made my eyes look teensy due to the intense magnification needed for me find my way in the world (still basically blind as a bat without correction today, woohoo!), and I believe this was about the time that my infamous mullet was beginning to grow it’s ugly tail. While I don’t remember eating gummyworms frequently enough to warrant a nickname, it doesn’t entirely surprise me.

Lo and behold, however, on that first day (or at least during that first week), when another similarly spindly girl sat in the front row (literally against our teachers lecturing desk) next to me. I shyly looked over to say hi, and WHAT. I looked quickly back at whatever my 9 year old self was trying to appear busy with since I didn’t have an iPhone, and then glanced over again. Sure enough, she was wearing a shirt with a gorgeous dappled grey Andalusian on it, roses weaved into the mane and everything. Instead of a hi, I’m pretty sure I greeted this classmate with a “I really love your shirt. Do you like horses?” Derp derp.

Later we exchanged names, and M told me proudly that she was taking REAL RIDING LESSONS (!!!!), and then asked if I’d like to come along some time (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I think it took a week or two before we got it coordinated, but I know that day I was about to bounce off the walls when M and her endearing mother came and picked me up. Despite the fact that it was overcast, us girls were giggling balls of sunshine in the backseat, and I was about on my knees trying to press my face against the window as we drove slowly up the drive towards the stable. Pastures lined either side and I couldn’t take in the variety of horse shapes, colors, and sizes fast enough. The barn itself seemed limitless; after my eyes adjusted the first thing I saw was the monstrous indoor which served as the center hub of the stable. On the side we entered was a row of stalls running the length of the barn, with a few on the other side of the arena along with an entrance to their tack shop, and yet another full length row which shared a back wall with the aisle we were currently walking. Though the structure was beginning to show it’s age slightly, having been constructed in the 70s hay-day, it was still clean and well taken care of with perky faces showing over the half-doors. We continued about halfway down and found M’s instructor, who she introduced to me as K, and who allowed me to help groom M’s trusty mount, Studly. Studly was your stereotypical lesson pony. Fat, grey coat faded to fleabitten white with age, and solid as a brick house. When the time came to tack Studly up, M disappeared into the tack room with K to get Studly’s things. I followed to the threshold and stood in amazement at the rows of saddles lining the walls, bits and bridles of every type hanging on countless hooks. There were groomboxes and saddle pads, girths and lungelines, boots, whips, extra stirrups, ointments and sprays that seemed to go on forever. With so much leather in one place, you couldn’t help wanting to smell it; maybe in reality it was a dusty 12′ x 12′ cluttered little room, but I remember it as a vast playground of well-oiled equipment organized just so.

When tacked up, our little train made it’s way to the outdoor arena. I sat up on the fence bench and watched in rapture as M walked and trotted around the arena, was able to turn Studly across the arena and change direction, make him halt and back up. I couldn’t get enough of it.

The real treat came at the end of the lesson however, when, as M was walking by us, instructor K asked me if I wanted to ride. Did I want to ride, ha ha. I quietly squealed with delight as someone handed me a helmet (adding this in because I hope I had a helmet, entirely probable I didn’t, and I actually don’t know if my mom had to sign a waiver for me either, but anyways), and then just had me slide from the fence over onto Studly’s back behind M. I held onto her while she explained that we were cooling Studly out after his “hard work” (combined, I don’t the two of us weighed 100 pounds), and for 5 blissful minutes I was riding. The air was crisp with oncoming fall as we trudged around, Studly dutifully carrying his babbling cargo with all the calmness, occasional stubbornness, and wisdom of an old-school lesson pony. I was taller than ever, on a real live horse, able to pet his fuzzy, speckled white hairs and feel the one-two-three-four of his hooves softly crunching the stone dust arena. Daydreams of galloping around in the expansive field immediately outside of the outdoor arena were dancing in my head. I don’t think I had ever been happier in my short life.

All too soon Studly was sufficiently cooled out, and we made our way back to the barn. I gushed that I would soon be signing up for lessons, and likely asked a million and one questions before we got back to the car, where M and I continued our serious evaluation of M’s lesson. I did get signed up for lessons later that fall, and I haven’t stopped talking about these damn creatures since.