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By Traci Durrell-Khalife

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I inherited the "horse bug" from my mother. In the 1920s, her father farmed his fields with teams of Percherons. While the gentle giants lounged in their corral, Mom, who was just a child, would climb up the leg of Bird or Jess and sit on her back as she walked around. Mom begged for a pony of her own. Finally, her family found a suitable 13.2 hand bay mare named Babe. She was very fast and won lots of pony races at local fairs. Babe was just the first of many for Mom.

In 1943 she purchased a Shetland mare for my oldest sister. Over the years there were Thoroughbreds, Morgans, Quarter Horses and crossbreds, but Shetlands were a mainstay. My five siblings and I all learned to ride on Shetlands, and we still have a small herd of them to this day. Our childhood favorite was Spike. He was a 38" sorrel tobiano gelding with endearing blue eyes. Not only did we learn to ride on him, we learned to be better riders because of him.

An experience I'll never forget was the day I entered my first solo riding class on Spike. At the tender age of six, I was too old for leadline. There were no walk/trot classes then, so I was entering Pony Western Pleasure 8 Yrs & Under. Spike wasn't a show pony; he was more experienced at pasture and trail riding. At last the announcer called my class. I walked into the big, dusty outdoor arena along with seven other ponies and riders. When asked to jog, Spike trotted a bit fast, but I had good control and sat his animated trot nicely. When the announcer called for the lope, Spike took off at a gallop, trying mightily to catch up and overtake the bigger ponies. He surely thought it was a pony derby. The harder I pulled on the reins, the faster he went. Then he lowered his head and started crow hopping across the arena!

 

I'd developed a pretty good seat and balance, having ridden bareback most of the time, but even that was no match for Spike's bucking. Soon I sailed over his head and landed in the dirt, right in front of the audience. The ringmaster hurried over to see if I was all right. As I got to my feet, I realized my cowboy hat had flown off, my belt buckle had come unhooked and was flopping loose, and a pearl snap had popped open on my shirt. I spit out a mouthful of dirt and exclaimed, "I'm falling apart!" That didn't deter me. I persevered with both Western and English riding and pony driving. I participated in 4-H and competed in open shows. After high school, I found my niche as a horse show judge and have been judging for 35 years. The knowledge, experiences and friendships gained through my horse life have been incomparable and have shaped me into the person I am today.


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For the Love of Horses and Family

By Jill Josquin

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I have loved horses since I first rode a pony at a Washington state fair when I was four years old. The following six years I begged my parents to let me get a horse. My best friend, Cyndy, had horses and I spent countless hours with her grooming, caring for, and riding her horses. Finally, when I was 10 years old, I got my first pony from my grandpa. I named her Sheldon. Poor little Sheldon was foundered - she was also a biter and very ornery. Sheldon could manage to get anyone off her back. I fell off and broke my arm the first summer I had her. However, with lots of love and perseverance, she and I competed in gymkhana. I eventually outgrew her and got a horse.

Years passed, I went to college and had to give up my horses. In 1997, my sweet niece, Shayna, was born. Like me, when she was four years old, she rode a pony at a Washington state fair. She cried inconsolably when she had to get off. Her parents broke down and bought her another ride; then I bought her one; then her grandparents bought her yet ANOTHER ride.

IT WASN'T ENOUGH!!! We carried her away kicking and screaming. She forever talked about that pony ride. Shayna lives in an urban area where it would be impossible to have a horse. Her dad, my brother, isn't a big fan of horses. Most likely because of what he experienced with my pony, Sheldon.

He was bucked off, run over, and bitten on numerous occasions. So, whenever I talked to him about taking Shayna for trail rides, he would reply, "Whenever you want sis, just leave me out of it." Once Shayna turned 13 and was old enough to handle a horse on her own, I took her on a trail ride for her birthday. She rode a horse called Mikey; I rode a horse called Shrek. She loved it so much I asked if she would like to go each year for her birthday. All year, she would talk about Mikey and Shrek's shenanigans and what they might possibly be up to the next time we would ride.

 

The photo I attached is of our 2013 trail ride at Mt. Spokane, Washington where she is riding Mikey and I am riding Shrek. 2014 was Shayna's fourth trail ride! We were not able to ride at Mt. Spokane in 2014. Instead we went to Riders' Ranch in Wolf Lodge, Idaho. Each time I see Shayna, she talks about how much fun it is to go on our annual horse rides and what a great time we will have on our next ride. Let's see, we have been on rides in Washington and Idaho...to have a chance to ride in Montana would be a fabulous addition to Shayna's horseback riding adventures! I'm grateful to have a niece who loves horses as much as I do!


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From Tag Man to Ringling Brother to Rescue

By Michele Thomas

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Trying to put our life with horses into 500 words is sort of like trying to put an elephant into a bathtub...but here it goes!

My mother, Cookie, started our family’s “horse fever” before I was even born. She still smiles as she tells about sneaking into her neighbor’s pasture when she was about seven to clamber up on their old white farm horse and gallop him back to the fence line, then sneak back in and do it all over again. My grandmother loved to tell the story of standing on their back porch and seeing my mother’s little pigtailed head go bobbing along barley peaking above their backyard fence, only to turn the corner and find she was sitting on top of the Rag Man’s horse while he made his rounds. Those Escapades were not quite daring enough for Mom, so she joined the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, Florida at the age of sixteen where one of her acts was to ride the “High School” show horses which performed in all the circus parades. Her favorite mount was “Prince Charming” a gorgeous, liver chestnut, American Saddlebred gelding (see photo). She also rode the circus elephants and was a daredevil motorcycle rider, but I’ll save that for another story! Mom had let the Ringling Bros. and was with World of Mirth (a smaller show) when I was born, and I grew up on that show being babysat by the man who owned the pony ring ride — strapped to that little saddle I went round and round all day while my parents practiced their acts. I am sure they took me off from time to time, but I just remember nodding off to sleep as the little ponies walked quietly around their ring. Who could as for a more perfect babysitting?

 

As a child and young teen, all I cared about was riding and being around horses, but as an adult, I began to realize the tragedy and enormity of so many unwanted, abused and neglected horses. This prompted my husband and I to form a non-profit equine rescue we call Res-Q Ranch, which we operated from 1998 until 2011. Our rescue was never breed specific, we took in any animal in need — we even ended up with a totally blind goat. Unfortunately, in 2011, we developed health issues so one of our dedicated Board members took over for us and has kept the rescue going strong in southern Oregon. Horse rescue is a grueling, labor intensive, expensive, heartbreaking yet rewarding life, and at last count we had accounted for at least 352 horses rescued. Not every rescue story had a happy ending, but every horse we rescued was given the final dignity their nobility deserved.

I have always felt like I was “born on a horse” and I just cannot imagine my life without a horse, mule or donkey in it! In fact, that would be… no life.


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By Sonja Hardy

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Our story isn't so much about the actual rides we have had, but the situations that our horses have carried us through. My Grandparents, John and Maude Hagelin, had 3 daughters. For them, horses were a necessity. My Grandfather was a woodsman, and worked with horses. We lost him in 1972. His middle daughter, Janne, is my mother.

Grampa bought her a 14.2 hh Morab my Gram named 'Little Man'. As a child I loved the stories my Mother and Gram told me of this spunky horse, of how he would lay down in the sawdust pile on my Aunt when he was bored with her riding him, or how he bucked my Mom off 3 times the first time she rode him. The tales my Mom and Gram told of horses were better than any bedtime stories ever. I was bitten by the horse bug before I could walk! Needless to say, I begged for a pony, I didn't care what kind or condition!

My Dad and Mom got a beautiful Morgan gelding when I was about 11. Huntly Hezekiah was magnificent, black and bold! BUT he was way to spirited for a young green rider. I tried, he tried, but it just didn't work, very disappointing for a child who dreamt of horses 24/7. The horse I needed came when I was 13, and she picked me! Not only was she beautiful, and a full sister to my Mom's horse, she became the best babysitter a teenager could ever have!

She kept me out of trouble and on good terms with my parents most of the time. Years have passed since that pair of wonderful Morgans and the adventures we had with them. I became a riding instructor, and had two awesome children, now grown, who shared some horse adventures with me themselves.

 

In 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two separate mastectomies, with chemotherapy in between, forced me to give up the professional horse career, and move home. My Dad and Mom supported this move wholeheartedly, 2 horses, 2 ponies, 2 cats, and a boyfriend they hardly knew. They stood by me the heart-wrenching day I let my old horse and pony, both 27, cross the Rainbow Bridge. I realistically couldn't bear to let them slip into a bad situation after being so loyal to me. My Gram now lived with my Mom and Dad, but she was failing and on March 30th of 2014, she too, slipped away.

Our lives have had many twists and turns, far too many to mention here, but our horses have always given us courage, and strength when we have needed it most. They have given us purpose when everything seemed shattered. They have brought us together again after we seemed so far apart, and are helping to heal our hearts from the losses we have recently endured. Thank you for reading my jumbled story. Please consider my parents for this vacation adventure. They deserve it.


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It was a pleasure for everyone at Noble Outfitters™ to read through your stories. Thank you for sharing your special memories. Be sure to keep in touch!