Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Horse Sanity

A horse trainer told Jennifer once that horseback riding is cheaper than therapy. It turns out that this is true! Well, maybe not cheaper but horses are good therapy. In fact, there is an actual name for the act of horses helping people--it's called hippo therapy (no actual hippos are involved in this therapy!) After a long trail ride through the Sonoma County foothills, Jennifer feels better than she ever did after a session with a therapist!

Jennifer's very first horseback ride (she cried)

February 7, 1982

Dear Diary,

"Hi. At horseback riding lessons, I fell off Sundance because 7 deer spooked him. It is the first time I ever fell off a horse. 2 more times and I will be a real rider, as the saying goes. I did not get hurt. I have $215 dollars saved for a horse. Well, bye. P.S. Sundance ran then stopped suddenly and I went over her head. Jennifer"

There is a saying that you aren't a real rider until you fall off a horse at least three times. Also, if you are an adult and fall off you are supposed to make cookies for everyone at the barn.

February 13, 1982

Dear Diary,

"My lesson was rained out. I spent the day at Carol's and I'm now spending the night so I can go to the show on Sunday. Krista, Anne and I gave Countess a bath. Right in the middle it started pouring. We got totally soaked. I cleaned tack a lot. Well bye. Jennifer"

Jennifer felt the pangs of envy again this particular weekend. Jennifer took lessons in Woodside. Almost all the other girls owned their own horses. They got to hang out at the barn and ride whenever they wanted. Jennifer took her lesson once a week and then had to leave.

A girl without a horse makes for good, free labor though! Jennifer did whatever she could to stay around the horses. On Saturday, she helped the wealthier girls bathe their beautiful horses. Jennifer loved Countess. She was a white pony. Her rider was pretty and very rich. The girls were nice to Jennifer. They commented on her figure quite often. Being skinny wasn't too cool in junior high, but it was cool at the barn. Jennifer cut a nice figure in her riding breeches, tall boots and jacket!

Jennifer spent the night at her trainer's house because they were leaving around 5am the next day to go to the show. Jennifer offered to help because her father couldn't afford to enter her in the show. The trainer put her on the sofa and then went out for the evening. Jennifer was alone in the huge house. She felt very responsible.

February 14, 1982

Dear Diary,

"I had a good time at the show. I mostly watched the show but I helped too. It kept raining but the ring was covered. Countess won three blue ribbons. Her show name is Vanilla Wafer. She is a white pony about 14.2 hands. She has one spot which makes her an appaloosa. Well bye. Jennifer"

That night Jennifer and the trainer dropped Countess off at her owner's home rather than at the trainer's barn. This sealed Jennifer's envy. The family lived in a house three-times fancier than the trainer's house. The barn was nicer than most people's homes. Jennifer could not imagine a world where this would ever be possible for her. She had saved 215 dollars toward this world. As the white pony walked toward her fancy stall, she saw that world stretch even farther out of reach...

Jennifer at her riding lesson in Woodside, CA on David

March 7, 1982

Dear Diary,

"Today I fell off David because he tripped and when he was half-way down I fell off. After I fell off he almost stepped on me because he was thrashing around trying to get up. Steve and Daniel tried to teach me karate. Yuck. I just ended up with a sore tailbone. Well bye. Jennifer"

Jennifer's brother was ahead of his time. The Karate Kid didn't come out until 1984. U.S. soldiers learned Karate in Okinawa, Japan after WWII and brought it to the United States. The first martial arts school was opened in Phoenix, Arizona in 1945. Of course, it would take Hollywood to spread the art into strip malls all across America. The movie responsible--The Karate Kid!

March 13, 1982

Dear Diary,

"Today I had my lesson at 2:00pm because of the show on Sunday. I helped out all day for the show. I didn't have to clean any tack. I helped Carol braid the horses' manes. Well, I spent the night at Carol's. Bye. P.S. Muffin got groomed today. Jennifer"

Jennifer worked for free in exchange for time with the horses. Girls all across America work at stables for free in trade for riding. Carol was fair to Jennifer, but some owners take advantage of these girls. To this day, Jennifer prefers to work for free. Her joke as a volunteer in the world is, "If you pay me, I'll quit."

March 14, 1982

Dear Diary,

"Today I watched the show. David got lots of ribbons. He also got Reserve for High-Point. Mac got High Point. I walked and helped, Stroker, most of the day. He is Carol's new horse. I had so much fun. Well bye. Jennifer"

Jennifer and David at the barn!

March 20, 1982

Dear Diary,

"Today I went to a horse show. There was a cow there called Mable. I actually rode on her back. I had lots of fun. I haven't ridden in a horse show yet. I haven't went with a boy in my life except Fat Fred. I love myself so bye. Jennifer"

Jennifer's list of Never' gets shorter every year. A boy named Fred, as desperate as herself to be a couple, had asked her to "go with him." She didn't really say no and it lasted about a day. Jennifer decided it didn't count since she never liked Fred in the first place.

The cow was at the show in a field. Jennifer jumped on the cow's back and rode her. Like Fred, the cow-ride was not exactly what she was looking for. She enjoyed the brief ride nonetheless, although she couldn't say the same for the cow. When she got off, it charged her! It was so hard to be at a show all day and not ride...

Jennifer, always at home on a horse!

April 17, 1982

Dear Diary,

"Today I went to my first horse show where I rode in it. I rode David. David was excited and during one of the classes, he started to run and he bucked. Everybody said I stayed on David like a pro. I won two ribbons, a third and a fourth. Well bye. Jennifer"

Jennifer and David at a show, probably in the East Bay

April 18, 1982

Dear Diary,

"Today I had my lesson. I did bad because I was sore from the show. David is a very gentle horse. Bye."

This is the loyal and protective side of Jennifer. Even though no one was reading her diary, she didn't want David to look bad. She never edited her diary, but she often tried to re-spin her words into a positive direction.

This is Jennifer's last diary entry as an 11 year old. She doesn't write again until December of 1982 at age 12. The diary pages change. Jennifer makes the big switch to cursive. Even bigger changes are heading her way. Within a year, Jennifer will make a decision that will change the fragile fabric of her family life all over again...

Jennifer's best childhood show. She beat her own trainer and won first place on David!
Did you work for free as a kid to earn a chance to do something fun?

Great Horse Movies
The Black Stallion 1979
Black Beauty 1946
Phar Lap 1983
National Velvet 1944
Hildago 2004
The Man From Snowy River 1982
Wild Hearts Can't be Broken 1991
Spirit 2002

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