When I was in 6th grade, someone came into my life who taught me a lot about relationships.
She had a black ponytail, big brown eyes, and long legs. As soon as I met her, I wanted to spend every minute I could with her, but, of course, I had to go to school, do homework, and play sports. Still, on weekends I rode my bicycle the four miles to her house and would stay for hours.
My mother did not fully approve. She worried that I would get hurt, I suppose. She also said that my girlfriend seemed wild. I liked her wildness. Mom didn’t need to know everything we did together. Alone.
At first we just “hung out.” We explored the woods behind her house. Her mother often followed us on those walks. I didn’t mind. Her mother liked me and actually encouraged our relationship.
After two years, when we both had grown considerably, I tentatively took our physical relationship to a much more involved level.
Although I had been taking it slow and had signals from her that she cared about me, she resisted what I had in mind. I landed in the dirt.
Gypsy was my first horse. She was very hot-blooded. Her sire was a Thoroughbred and her dam was half Arab and half Quarterhorse. She was tall and had a beautiful head.
She was born at my Uncle Jack’s place. He invited me to use her as a 4-H project. Uncle Jack would present ideas to me as if I would be doing him a favor. He’d sure appreciate it if I would halter break that foal. So I spent hours leading Gypsy around. He wondered if I would mind trying to get her used to having a saddle on, even though she was too young to ride. So I played around with getting her to not fear blankets and even a light saddle when she was a yearling.
When she was two, I decided it was a good idea to mount her in the barnyard. It would have been a better idea to have had someone else there to help. Gypsy promptly bucked me off. Mom didn’t need to know. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, and that was also true of Uncle Jack’s barnyard.
There is a saying, “Ain’t a horse that can’t be rode; ain’t a cowboy can’t be throwed.”
Over time, graduality being the key, I could get into the saddle and actually get my feet in the stirrups before she hopped a little. When I did not go off, it ceased being fun for her.
Over time, we worked on the idea of reining and stopping. She actually learned quickly. She also moved quickly.
After we had mastered the barnyard by walking around and turning at fences and the trailer so she would have a purpose in changing direction and stopping, I wanted to go some place new.
Our first time out on the road, we had gone less than half a mile when Gypsy met her first car. She did not like it much. As the car approached, it courteously slowed down. Gypsy did not turn to avoid it. Instead, she started bucking toward it and I landed on the hood of the car before ending up on the dirt road. Gypsy did not run home. She stood there waiting for me. I appreciated that. She decided that she had trained cars to stop. So as we saw other cars, she would start bucking. I had to return to the barnyard for our rides.
The solution to her issue with cars was to again take a gradual approach. I had my mother bring her car into the barnyard. I let Gypsy get used to it while it was turned off. When she saw it was not going to attack her, Mom turned on the engine. Again, that was not too scary. Finally, Mom drove it slowly around. The car did not eat Gypsy. Eventually, I rode her in a parade. Gypsy taught me how to teach her. Graduality was the key.
When Gypsy was three, I did Uncle Jack another favor by taking Gypsy off his hands for the summer. I had a job at a horse camp as a counselor. Gypsy had a job there too. She had to let me ride her every day, as we took the kids out on long rides. We did that for two summers, hours a day. She turned into a pretty good horse.
I used the money we made to purchase Gypsy from Uncle Jack. He figured $150 was fair. It was a good deal. However, selling her to me did not get rid of her for him. She was still on his place. However, now I had to pay for boarding her. Jack let me do him another favor. Instead of paying him $15 a month for her hay and grain, he’d let me work it off. We had a notebook where I would record my time mowing his lawn, cleaning gutters, and cleaning our stalls. I earned $1.25 per hour. That meant I had to work out there twelve hours a month. I had to go every weekend for three hours. While I was there, I got to hang out with Gypsy. It was a good deal for me, but Uncle Jack was sure naive. I would have done it for free.