As you can see from the picture, I was born with the horse gene. Neither of my parents were particularly horsey, we lived in the suburbs, and did not have a lot of ready cash. I lived in hope that one day I would have a pony, and my dad was pretty great about stopping whenever we saw a field with horses so we could pet them. That little upside was offset by his habit of saying, "I have to go see a man about a horse" instead of just excusing himself from the room to go to the bathroom. I think I was about 6 years old before the penny dropped and I realized he was just going to take a leak and not to buy me a pony.
Listen, I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.
So anyway, when I was 10 my parents decided to move from Cranford, NJ to Pittstown, NJ. You'd think that would have been a good thing, right? Pittstown, land of Hunterdon, Inc. and George H. Morris? Nope. Had no idea the man existed, so moving to Pittstown was a tragedy in my book.
We moved in the summer, so I knew absolutely no one. Pittstown was solid plows and cows, so the chances of me actually stumbling anyone to play with in a 10 mile radius was fairly slim. So, I entertained myself by training my dad's 7 year old field trial trained Labrador, Scooter. If you know anything about Labradors, you know their life expectancy is about 10-14 years, so 7 is middle age for them. Poor Scooter was out in the woods and fields with me from sunrise to sunset, all summer. We wandered all over hill and dale, swam in the brooks, and trained for fall field trials and hunting season.
The dog was in the best shape of his life, but my dad was concerned he was doing too much. Basically, the conversation he had with my mom went something like this, "Nancy, find her something to do or she's going to kill my dog." Mom did a little research and decided to investigate if they could afford riding lessons at Smoke Hollow Farm, a local boarding facility that at the time offered a small lesson program. Mom and Dad could initially afford one lesson a month, which I subsidized that by hanging out and doing any menial task I could. Eventually one lesson a month moved to two, and then more after I picked up a part time job working for a local dressage rider.
My trainer became like a big sister to me, and is one of my closest friends to this day. (Coincidentally, it was she and her daughter who found Sugar for me.) I absolutely worshipped her Quarter Horse gelding, the ironically named Lazy, who taught me the basics of riding and working with horses, schlepped me around 4H and local horse shows and endless trails, and let me spend hours fussing over him, reading to him, or laying on him in his stall. Good ol' Laze was getting on in years, so I graduated to Andy, her Appaloosa gelding, who taught me how to stay on and stop a runaway, how to ride a stopper, how to roach a mane and keep a white horse clean (for the most part.)
So that's it. Clearly my parent's fault. By the way, Scooter survived his summer of intense activity, and went on to have the best hunting season of his life. My dad's hunting cronies couldn't believe how good that dog looked; and he had more energy than most of the younger dog's out there. He spent the season bringing retrieving my dad's birds, as well as the birds brought down by my dad's friends. And mark my words, that dog was not above rubbing his success in the other dog's faces, bless his heart.