Horse Crazy Kids: It’s in the Genes
Many equestrians have been, no doubt about it, horse-crazy from birth. From the kids who were given wild ponies or backyard trail horses to the city kids who dreamt of owning a stable every night.
If you show horses, there’s a good chance that you’ve been horse-crazy from the very start. The horse-obsessed kid will find a way to make just about anything and everything about horses.
We talked to some exhibitors and trainers to hear about their memories of growing up horse-obsessed.
Warning: You might have been or might have a horse-crazy kid on your hands if any of these anecdotes sound all too familiar.
Just ask AQHA and APHA Amateur exhibitor Cory Mathia. He shares, “Growing up, we had Rottweilers, and I pretended they were horses. I would jump them and try to do showmanship or longe them. They were less than cooperative.” (laughs, pictured right)
If you became a pint-sized stalker of anyone who might offer you the chance to muck out a stall, then you might have been born horse-crazy.
Cory Mathia also admits to being free labor just to get near the neighbor’s horses. He recounts, “Growing up, my family didn’t have horses, but my neighbors did. They taught me how to clean stalls and in exchange, they would teach me to ride their horses.”
Amateur exhibitor and equine graphic designer, Elizabeth Jakovich (pictured left), is another horse girl who was born to be wild about horses. In fact, she snuck into her first win picture before she was even born.
She recalls, “While my mom was pregnant with me, she showed halter and had this big ole’ preggo belly. Well, her horse won, so she took a win picture but asked the photographer to not get her in the shot. When she got the picture back she is cut out of the shot, but her belly (aka me!) is still in the picture.”
Elizabeth “Spike” Brewer (pictured right with her daughter) recalls being horse-obsessed from a very early age as well. She says, “I had a little white pony with gray dapples named Silver Streak and then, later a Grulla Quarter Horse gelding named Smokey who both were my faithful mounts growing up. In my bedroom, I would rip out all the pretty horse pages in the Quarter Horse Journal and hang them on my bedroom wall all the way around. And, when the Congress used to have stallion alley, I would load up on more pretty horse flyers and add them to my well-decorated wall.”
If none of your horse-related antics ever seemed “crazy” to you, you might have been a horse-crazy kid.
Amateur Exhibitor Vanessa Froman intones, “My issue is that none of it seemed ‘crazy’ to me. I was just a normal girl who had horses in her backyard and in her soul. My parents would haul my ponies to school for show and tell all the time. My birthday parties would have pony rides where I told my friends what they were doing wrong.”
Froman continues (pictured left with her son), “My Barbies had horse shows and never went to the mall or on dates. In the winter, my pony, Black Beauty, would pull us on a sled behind her. After breakfast and before the bus came, my dad would throw me up on whatever horse we were breaking out at the time. Mom (my bus driver) would honk if we were late, and I would jump off and run to catch the bus.”
If you had a pony that you rode everywhere (including places you weren’t supposed to), you might have been a horse-crazy kid.
Trainer, Tim Gillespie grew up surrounded by horses and recalls one special pony in particular: Popcorn. He beams, “Popcorn was the best pony ever. I must have been three or four when I got him. The rule with my mom was that I had to be able to ride him by myself in the indoor to be able to ride outside, and I hated that rule. I was told that I had to be able to make him go both ways and all around the arena before I could ride outside. Somehow, I did one day.”
Gillespie continues, “From that time on, I would ride Popcorn from the time I woke up until I had to go to bed. I would ride him and ride him until he got too tired, and he would gently buck me off and go back in the barn. Well, we lived on a 700-acre ranch, so by the time I walked back to the barn, Popcorn had a chance to rest and have a snack, so I’d take him back out again. Popcorn was allowed to come inside the house for my birthday party every year, too.”
If you ever begged your parents to ride a carousel, rental horse or pony ride at the county fair because you just couldn’t get enough saddle time, you might have been a horse-crazy kid.
AQHA Professional Horseman, Jerri Harmon shares her early horse obsession. “I would sneak out of my room in the middle of the night, at four years-old, to go be with the horses. I would come in before anyone got up to catch me. The horses were my family. The only way I would agree to go on long vacations with my grandparents was if they promised to take me to ride rental horses along the way. I didn’t want to be away from my horses. I would insist on riding the pony ride at the carnival, even though I had horses at home. I could go on and on…but you get the idea.”
Harmon’s pony, Star, was always by her side, though. She admits, “At my third birthday party, I gave pony rides on Star, but I wouldn’t let anyone ride by themselves.”
AQHA exhibitor Shannon Fisher (pictured right) gushes, “I was that little girl who asked Santa Claus for a horse every Christmas, but every Christmas that horse never came. So, in school, whenever we had to write stories and make books, mine were always about horses, and how I would have my own farm one day. At 14, my dad bought me my first horse, and I’ve had them ever since. Now, I’m blessed to have that horse farm (with Alan Fisher), with adorable minis and the best family anyone could ask for.”
If you ever rode something that was “less than broke,” but kept riding anyway, you might’ve been a horse-crazy kid.
APHA Amateur All-Around Exhibitor, Norma Streeter Hamilton claims, “I don’t remember life without horses. My earliest memory of riding was when my mother, Linda, very carefully took me from the back of my two-year-old pony. Did I mention it was an unbroke two year-old pony that I had saddled myself, using twine as a cinch and bridle?”
Tim Gillespie also shares a time when he may have sabotaged his babysitter by asking her to hook their pony up to a cart to drive. He recalls, “What she didn’t know was that the pony had never been driven before. We’d just gotten the cart. It wasn’t good, she fell out of the cart and I got into a lot of trouble.”
We loved hearing the tales of some of our industry’s childhood horse-crazed antics. Whether that meant going as far as paying $3.00 for a Breyer bale of hay when a real bale wasn’t selling for that or spending $20.00 on the .10 cent pony rides at the county fair, horse-crazy kids were often hooked for life.
Tell us about your memories of being a horse-crazy kid in the comments and view a slideshow of more horse crazy people in our industry below.
About the Author: A native Michigander, Rachel Kooiker is a lover of horses who loves to write. She competes in all-around Amateur events with her APHA gelding, Hoos Real. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BA in English and Psychology and an MA in Curriculum & Instruction. She and her husband Drew operate Kooiker Show Horses, where they stand APHA World Champion Im the Secret. They have a 2½-year-old daughter, Reed, who enjoys “showing” her toy horses.