I’ve had a love affair with horses since I was a child. I’m told that at the age of three, my maternal grandfather, a race horse trainer, would take me to the track and put me on the lead ponies. I have no memory of this and no photos either, which really sucks, but I believe it anyway. Growing up, I would have killed (I know that’s a term that’s thrown around loosely, but trust me, I really would have killed) to have had a horse. Aside from some summer riding on rental horses and hanging around the local 4H barn like an adoring groupie years before the word had even been coined, I never had the chance to indulge my passion.
Then, at 38 years old, a fossil in terms of starting to ride, I met a bunch of people who had horses and I began to sink every spare penny I could get a hold of into riding lessons. I had no idea at all of what English riding was, but was sent to a trainer who said to me, “Do you want to chase cows?” Well, no… “Then you’ll ride English.” Uh… okay. The horse he put me on was a half-Arab, half-Morgan named Pawnee. Pawnee would pin his ears and try to chase me out of the stall when I’d go to get him and then try to step on my foot when I’d saddle him. Being used to being treated like crap by the male gender I, of course, was crazy about him. We were soon galloping wildly out of control all over
Griffith Park in and I was having the time of my life. Burbank
After a while, trail riding wasn’t enough though. I spent countless hours at the local equestrian center watching horse shows, specifically the jumpers, and I knew that’s what I had to do. Let me reiterate verbatim, 38 is a fossil in terms of starting to ride, and now I was going get on the back of a 1200-pound horse and jump over a fence. I should probably mention that I was never athletic. Nope, no athletic ability whatsoever. Didn’t even walk if I didn’t absolutely have to. While that should have deterred me, or at least given me pause, mature decision-making has never been my strong suit.
Enter a new trainer and a new horse, Argon, a big German warmblood. Argon was a rock star of a horse. He was everything I’d been looking for in a man, but couldn’t find. Tall, drop-dead gorgeous, and gelded. Best of all, he loved me, too. And he was for sale! This was in 1989 and the owner was asking $15,000, a fortune then. I was a freelance TV-writer at the time, meaning I was often “between jobs,” but since fiscal responsibility had never darkened my doorstep before, why should it now? I borrowed $5,000 off a credit card for a down payment and promised her $1,000 a month till he was paid off, fully willing to sell my body on a street corner if that’s what it took. That horse was the most patient, kind, generous creature ever. He’d take me galloping on the trail one day and into the show ring the next where he’d pack my sorry ass over every fence without complaint. Here is a photo of us. Isn’t he gorgeous? I, on the other hand, look like I’m having a bowel movement.
If you’ve ever seen the movie I wrote for Animal Planet called “Big Spender,” the scenes where Big Spender is given peppermint candy are based on Argie’s voracious appetite for the treat. Just the sound of me unwrapping the cellophane would start him nickering and begging. He never had to beg for long. I would have given him a kidney. Argon was the love of my life and our partnership lasted for seven years until 1996 when, at the age of 17, he let out one whinny and just dropped dead in the barn. It was as if someone had reached inside my chest, grabbed my heart in their fist, and yanked it out. I slept with his blanket for a month because it smelled like him.
My next steed was a retired polo horse named Bubba who’d actually been given to a friend of mine, but she didn’t ride him much so he became my horse and for the next three years we rode the trails. Having played the treacherous sport of polo with mallets swinging around his head for eight years, nothing spooked him. I was probably most at ease on Bubba out on the trail than with any other horse I’ve ridden and we had the best beach rides ever. In 1999, he was getting older and stiffer and it was time to retire him. Here we are at his retirement.
Let me just note here that 10 years later, at the ripe old age of at least 25, Bubba is still going strong and still on the payroll. I, however, will never be able to retire and fully expect to someday be living under an overpass.
Anxious to get back to jumping, but also still wanting to ride on trails, I bought a Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse cross by the name of Kona. Kona, like Argon, was another mensch of a horse. I showed him under the name “Hello, Handsome,” because, well… obviously. This is my absolute favorite jumping photo of us.
He always jumped the fence, no matter how badly I got him there. I’m sure that somewhere from the great beyond, Argie was telling him, “Yeah, I know. She rides like crap, but take care of her anyway,” and take care of me Kona always did. In 2005, he incurred some kind of freak spinal cord injury. We never did figure out what happened, but after two weeks and thousands of dollars trying to save him, I had to put him down and, once again, my heart was broken.
Which brings me to now. Horses are expensive and while I would sell my soul to have another, apparently the soul market isn’t what it used to be. When I approached the devil with my offer, he replied, “Yeah, yeah, you and everyone else. Take a number.”
So here I sit, horseless. Riding and hanging out at the barn and at shows with my friends was such a huge part of my life for so long and I miss it deeply. I still have friends who let me ride their horses from time to time, and I’m grateful, but it’s not like that special bond you have with your own. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful day today and I’m going to go over to the barn and watch some of my friends ride. And, by the way, say what you will about the softness of a baby’s butt – there’s nothing softer than a horse’s nose. This is me and Argon after winning our first blue ribbon.
I ask you, if that's not love, what is?