It started with a pair of retired cow ponies that dad bought for us when I was just starting at the school I described yesterday. Lady and Chindy were good to begin with. I know many people go for Shetland Ponies first but believe me, although small, they can be mean and stubborn as any donkey. Most do not get trained by a knowledgeable adult so they are not in the western terminology, properly "broke" and taught some manners. Although it was a hard scramble for me to reach the saddle of a full sized horse at that time, I learned how to do it and from then on was atop a horse every chance I got.
For my thirteenth birthday, although actually a bit before, I received a yearling filly. She came to me around Valentine's Day so I called her My Valentine but she ended up being just Tina. She was a reddish bay with black mane and tail, a blazed face and one white foot on the left rear. Although she was supposed to be sired by an purebred Arabian and her mother was a mixed blood cowpony, she always looked like a Thoroughbred. She grew to a good sixteen hands high (a hand is four inches so you can figure that out--in a word, tall!) and was always on the leggy and lanky side. I never knew a horse with more heart and willingness. She was sure footed in some very rough central Arizona terrain, savvy about cattle, and pretty darn fast when a good gallop was in order. In many ways she was the love of my life, at least equine wise. I had her for just over ten years and she produced two nice colts sired by an Appaloosa stallion we had for a time named Yavapai Chief. Bravo and Rico eventually went to a working ranch in the area and became top-quality cow ponies too. Tina died of a virus in the spring of 1966 at not quite eleven years of age and left me broken hearted for some time.
Here are a couple of pictures of her--and me. I cherish them and the memories they bring back. I am sure she waits for me in that green pasture by the Rainbow Bridge along with a number of other well-loved equines and of course that pack of dogs who've passed through my life. She and Flash just missed becoming good partners as he was gone not long after she came into my world. He'd have enjoyed running with horses though, I know. Many other dogs did and now perhaps they are all together in that good place as they wait for me to return to them.
I'll introduce some of my other favorites soon but Tina had to have a place all her own. She was that special.
Let me close with a verse I wrote in 1957 not long after Tina was broke enough for me to ride her freely by myself. It would be about the time frame of the black and white shot above. I was about fourteen when I enscribed these lines. They're simple but full of feelings and I think evocative!
Wind in my face, wind at my heels,
Faster and freer and wilder than wheels.
Cares left behind, worries left too.
Nothing can catch me when I'm riding you.
Saddle beneath me, reins in my hand.
We're racing the wind, Tina, isn't it grand?
Oh the glory of riding, of running, of flying!
We beat the wind,Tina, without even trying!
The earth can't contain us, we're high as a cloud
I'm riding my Tina and am I not proud?
(C) GMW, 1957