Riding Like The Man From Snowy River
Dawn in Shenandoah Valley
The time was the end of the summer of 1993. This was a special time. It was a time when my dream moved a step closer to reality. I had not grown up around horses, but that summer I was out on the trail riding the first horse I ever trained. In the back of my mind I was never quite sure I would really succeed in taking a horse I trained into open country. A green horse and a green rider was a combination laden with danger. However, this was the first of many events that defined a new life, and it would result in fulfillment beyond my wildest dreams.
My mount was this young Arab I named Ameer. He
was more than a little wild, but being the first horse I trained I was too naive to
notice. I was unaware of how hot Ameer was for a green rider. Even today, my
wife reminds me that Ameer taught me everything I know about horses. He was tough every step of the way.Eventually
I had Ameer where we could race through the brush letting inhibitions behind.
Here I was, almost 50 in years, and I was sure I was riding like "The Man From Snowy River"!
I could even hear the theme music as I rode Ameer through the brush!
Dawn was the horse of my riding partner that summer. We will call him Ziggy. He would say "Doesn't she remind you of Gina Lollobrigida?" and then laugh. He would compare Dawn to an Italian actress almost on every ride, and we did a lot of riding that summer. Ziggy had no more experience than I, he was also just getting started with horses. We were not young men, circumstance had brought us to this bout with large animals late in our years. We both had to look back when talking about middle age. That entire summer we ventured out together on the trail enjoying our new sport. We did a lot of laughing and I shared much camaraderie. We were two older guys doing something that was new to us and we were having a ball. Dawn was an older horse than Ameer and much more stable. She had experienced a few more miles of riding. But Dawn was capable of speed, and when she saw Ameer she wanted to let go and have fun. Ziggy would pull on her mouth and hold her back. Ziggy was all about form, I could tell he thought horses are not about fun; they are about structure and discipline. Ziggy was European and a serious horseman. I was just a kid playing an Outback cowboy and having the time of my life.
I cannot explain why, but one evening a fear came over me as I was washing one of our
many dogs in the tub. I was thinking of Dawn. I had come to know Dawn and
assumed she would always be part of this crazy duo. Then, out of the blue, I knew Ziggy had
just up and sold her. That's right, he sold her after he spent the summer
riding her on the trails. It did not make sense, but Ziggy had sold his
previous horse also. It seemed when he was not satisfied with HIS performance record
at the saddle club he would blame it on his horse. He was an educated man and had studied equitation. He knew
what comprised a skilled horseman. To get high
point of the year at the saddle club would prove his
horsemanship. He had decided Dawn was not up to the job of taking him to the
top. She had taken him as far as she could. She was just a disposable item used
up. Ribbons were his means of evaluating his horsemanship. With more ribbons,
he would prove he was the real horseman. From now on, we would take different trails. Ziggy would go for ribbons and I would go for a relationship with my mount.
Without Dawn it was not going to be the same. To
make matters worse, I recalled there was a horse auction that week. Dawn
carried him about that summer and I feared I knew her reward. I suspected Dawn
may have been sold down the river without regard to her fate. Competition at
the saddle club meant everything to him; Dawn's attempt to please him meant nothing.
Dawn was only the means to prove his adeptness with horses.
My wife searched for Dawn and sure enough, some meat buyers in another state now had her. This mare we had nicknamed Gina Lollobrigida, was off in Oregon faced with prospects that were too horrifying to consider. Poor Dawn!
Ziggy's new mount arrived. This new horse surely would prove his skill. He wanted to test drive his new horse. He wanted to get her ready to impress his buddies at the saddle club. Although he had tired of trail riding, we made plans to go out riding in the open together. I would ride Ameer but Dawn would not be with us this time. Dawn was many miles away waiting her fate in strange surroundings. Somewhere in the middle of our ride I spotted some good size logs lying across a side trail. My corrupt mind immediately had a plan. Ameer could sense my intent and immediately picked up the pace and flew over those logs. There was no question, Ameer liked to go! But also, as I suspected, Ziggy's new mount took the cue and followed. In a few seconds the skillful horseman, the disciplined rider with the ribbons and his new mount were airborne. Then, just a bit later, a pleasing sound filled the air! Aaaaaaaagggggghhh, Ziggy found himself landing on his saddle horn. I thought I knew what happened, but I needed to hear it first hand. I asked Ziggy, "what happened"? He said oh my god. I have scrambled my eggs. Sometimes you have to scramble some eggs and take pleasure while you do it. I whispered to Ameer "that's one for Dawn.
That was my last trail ride with Ziggy. I
figured he was safer staying in the arena and perfecting his equitation. I did
not benefit from those learned scholars of Austria and would stick to running
through the brush. Ziggy can impress the judges with his skillful horsemanship,
get high point
for the year, and prove he is truly a fine horseman. I prefer to stay far away
from those that need to prove how many ribbons they can acquire.
A few months after that last ride with Ziggy I did show up at the saddle club. There are two kinds of classes at the saddle club. I entered the games classes! I wanted to ride in some timed events involving pole bending and other maneuvers. Ameer was always fast on the trail. No dragging my horse's nose on the ground for Western Pleasure.The clock, not a judge would tell our story. Clocks are not interested in politically correct, they just tell you who did the course in the fastest time. I don't do timed events on a regular basis, but they can be fun. I had a ball that day. But I did not bring Ameer that day. I had a new sidekick to show off. She had come a long way for this event. All the way from Oregon to Washington. The clock said the horse I rode that day was the fastest one at the club. In fact that horse did better than my Ameer when he was there for play day.
Yep, my new sidekick Dawn was threading those poles and running home faster than any horse! Dawn was back from Oregon and showing her stuff like it had never been shown.
Her head wasn't drooping on the ground doing Western Pleasure, she was spreading the word that she had the right stuff when you took the bear trap out of her mouth! She had no interest in sniffing the ground , she wanted to stretch her legs and move out! She won some money for us that day. Maybe she knew she was retired from the scrutiny of judges. Maybe she knew her life was going to be different. She certainly let it loose and we flew through the course. Dawn lifted me to the number one spot that day and we were proud.
Dawn taking a friend for a ride.
Dawn moved to Virgina with us in 1999. She doesn't get endlessly lounged
anymore in preparation for her classes. She has a saddle that fits instead of
one that sores her back. And no one asks her to drag her nose on the ground. Most of all, I think she loves to hear the story of
We never knew how old Dawn was, but we know she was with us for 17 years. She left the Majo herd early In 2011 and I believe she was close to 30. I hope she enjoyed her stay. If there is a Heaven, Dawn will be waiting to take me for a fast ride. I would love that! She knows I am still convinced I ride like the man from Snowy river and Dawn would never burst my bubble!