Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Memoirs: A Horse Girl and a Petite Stallion

My favorite fictitious horse is "The Black"  from Walter Farley's The Black Stallion.  I am forever captivated by the relationship between Alec and The Black.  Many, many horse stories recreate the bond between human and horse, like National Velvet, which is another favorite of mine, but in my opinion none can compare to The Black Stallion.  I own the story in numerous forms which reflect the evolution of audio/video technology: the book, a small vinyl record for children, a cassette tape and book, a VHS movie, an older DVD, and most recently we bought the movie on Blu-ray.  It is stunning.

The Black Stallion film was released in theaters during my birth year and was shown again locally when I was old enough to sit in a movie theater.  I believe that it was the first movie that I saw in the theaters, although it is a close tie with E.T.  From age three, I do remember seeing the movie and that it coincided very closely with my first time sitting on a horse.  These two experiences solidified my fascination with the animal, which, thirty years later, has never lost momentum.  I am physically unable not to shed tears when Alec and The Black make contact for the first time and during the flashbacks to the beach in the race scene at the end of the movie.  In my opinion, the film is remarkably and undeniably beautiful: the scenery, the cinematography, the music, and how these elements of film come together to color the story of a boy and his horse, two souls who saved each other.

As a kid with a healthy imagination, sometimes I was Alec, sometimes I was The Black.  I inspired other girls on the playground at recess to be my herd and we cantered and galloped around the school yard like a horse-crazed mob.  I guess that my dedication to the role was contagious, because a surprisingly small number of kids made fun of us.  Most girls wanted to "run with the pack" and a few boys who dared criticize usually got their toes stomped on, stallion-style.  I was actually reprimanded for this, because I liked to wear black shoes with a heel that could seriously deal a painful blow.  I grew out of this before fourth grade, but it must have been a sight on the playground.

Fast forward to the years between college and marrying my husband, who was my long-distance steady after graduation.  My riding instructor, the dressage rider with the lovely chestnut mare, surprised me with a newly purchased horse.  He was blond.  He was handsome.  He was five.  He was a "whole" male horse.  And the best part?  As a registered, pure-bred Halflinger stallion, "Harry" was my size!

Harry: At 14.1 hands, he is the petite stallion.

Less than a year before, I had lost my (leased) beloved mare, who will certainly reappear in my memoirs, so I had been riding my instructor's lovely Garbo.  This was a cherished opportunity, since she was an FEI dressage horse, but when a horse has a very strong connection with another person, it always feels a little flat riding that horse if you are not "that person".  This was especially noticeable after losing a horse and the bond we had developed over several years.  I had actually started looking for other places to ride, because my sadness was leaving me restless and I wondered if it would be best to move on.  Enter Harry.  We became fast buds.  I needed a new horse to love and he needed a feisty girl to ride him.  Boy were we in for some interesting times.

First Show: Introductory Level Dressage, 67%
There was no doubting Harry's talents in dressage.  He also developed skills in jumping and driving.

I only rode Harry for a year or two, while I was working as a chemist.  Unfortunately, I did not have many daylight hours for riding, but I made do with the time that I had.  When I got married and moved away, I had to say "Good-Bye" to this handsome fellow, but his lessons stayed with me.  The most valuable was the importance of riding a horse who fits your person.  I used to love riding big (16+ hand) horses, undeniably because I liked feeling taller.  But truth be told, I rode Harry with much more ease than the larger horses I had become accustomed to riding.  I finally appreciated the horses of my height and enjoyed riding with less muscle and greater effectiveness.  I thank Harry for influencing me to choose a rather small horse in Harley and for teaching me the tactfulness that is required to ride even a petite stallion.

Look for Harry in future Memoirs!


  1. He is so pretty! I first started my horse obsession when I discovered the Blaze series of books by CW Anderson, his drawings were so beautiful and I when I was reading I was Billy. At 8 I finally got my own pony and we were inseperable. Home wasn't a very plesant place to be gorwing up and "Cricket" was my very best friend and confidant. He even shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I moved on to bigger horses, but none were ever the same as Cricket. My father's job tranferred him to the west coast here(I'm from Ohio) and Cricket couldn't come. I have always wondered and hoped he was treated fairly after we left. Long story short through the magic of Facebook, I just found out last week that he went on to live a very full life and only recenty passed away at the ripe old age of 30! I was so happy I cried.

  2. We also ruled the lower school playground cantering, galloping and jumping over everything in our path. (I got in trouble for smacking a pesky boy with a pretend lead rope) ;)

    As well we had a seriously exclusive clique where status was determined by who had the newest Breyer model. That group was vicious!

    Harry is adorable!

  3. Mary- I am glad that you had Cricket and that he lived the life that every horse deserves. I am sorry that you had to leave him.

    I used to read like crazy until I ran out of horse books. ;)

    C,F,S-It sounds wild now, doesn't it? My friend and I used to race like The Black and Flame. We were always competing to see who was faster.

  4. LOL I did the cantering and galloping around the playground too. I remember some of the other kids asking to learn how, but it didn't really take off. :)

    I loved the black stallion series! Some of my favorite books. Actually I loved all of the horse books. Even as an adult I still read them sometimes. :)

    Harry is/was gorgeous! I love Halfies, but at 5'11" I just don't see me ever having one hehe.

  5. You would have been welcome in my herd!

    I would consider buying a Halflinger or a half Halfie, especially if I had kids and I needed a pony that we could both enjoy. There is an annual Halflinger auction in Harrisburg, PA, which is where we bought Harry. My instructor had a seriously good eye to buy a horse at an auction without having laid a finger on him ahead of time.

  6. I love Harry (being quite partial to Haffies)! They are so amazing and quite willing to do anything. They are often under-estimated little horses, but always bring everything they have to the table! They also have quite the attitude to boot!

    1. Lots of attitude, but in a good way, of course. Harry was a lot of fun to work with. He would do a natural piaffe-type movement when he got excited about something. I missed him after we parted ways.


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