I am not sure which came first, the paddock boots or the brushes, but either way they were funded by saving my weekly allowance for many months. The exact time escapes me, but I was probably less than ten years old. In fact, I cannot remember going to the barn without my sturdy container of grooming supplies, and the rectangular grip of the plastic handle. It did not matter that I did not own a horse. I had a box full of brushes, one of each kind, hoof picks, and a couple mane combs, which accompanied me to the barn like my tool kit.
"The horses are losing their winter coats? No problem. I brought my shedding blade."
"Oh, you lost your hoof pick? Here, you can borrow my spare."
I would never dream of taking a riding lesson without cleaning my pony's feet first. Extra hoof picks were essential, as was the lesson in responsibility. "The horse always comes first," was the horsemanship philosophy drilled into me in the early years.
I came to really appreciate having my own grooming kit. Practically speaking, I did not have to worry about looking around for a curry comb or soft brush, but even more importantly, it showed that I was serious about riding. Unlike most of the other lesson goers, I did not enter horse shows, so I needed something to represent my dedication. Some girls had ribbons; I had brushes. And I took excellent care of those brushes. I used my mother's vacuum to remove loose hair and dust, and I emptied and cleaned the entire grooming box quite regularly, replacing all the grooming tools afterward, tucked in their rightful spots.
There was pride in that grooming kit.
I still have most of the original brushes and they are in working order. One of them is a short, stiff brush with red bristles. The handle is wooden. This brush is the best for grooming legs and thick winter coats. I have seen one just like it in the barn owner's collection and I know that she likes it, because once she saw me using mine and worried that it was her red brush. Needless to say, I understood the attachment. I have had this brush for so long that I would be sad if I misplaced it. The wood has worn to match my grip perfectly. It reminds me of an old musical instrument, whose resonance and charm have developed with time. Harley loves the brush on his forehead and jaw. Those must be itchy places that only the well-experienced bristles of the red brush can satisfy.