my first horse involves a story of heartbreak (albeit temporary the first time and rather permanent the second time)............
I started english riding lessons at a nearby stable in early spring of 1991. I was 10 years old. I rode at that barn until summer and then figured I wanted to broaden my horizons and took western lessons at a different stable (well, those lessons ended up being english because their western saddles didn't fit me - my butt too big for the pony saddle and too small for the adult saddles, lol). So I figured after taking lessons until september/october that year, I was ready to lease a horse. Went back to the first stable and for november 1991 I leased a crotchety old lesson pony named Tony.
During the month of my lease I met a lady that kept 8 horses in the back half of the barn. Her name was Philippa Dean (nee Byfield). She was the reserve rider for the Canadian Olympic Equestrian Team for 1980, the year Canada boycotted the olympics and didn't end up going. I'm still not sure how such a prominent horse person ended up at a mid-range boarding barn in Edmonton, but there she was. I know her husband had passed away in 1990, the year before I met her, so that may have had something to do with what I thought was a 'downturn' in her horse world. She was also the daughter of Ted Byfield, owner of a political magazine called The Alberta Report. Some of you fellow Edmontonians may have heard about Philippa in the news in october of 2007, when she had terminal cancer, and lit a cigarette too close to her oxygen tank and set her father's house on fire here in Edmonton and passed away.
Out of her 8 horses, I fell in love with a 14.2 hand bay pony named Fire Wizard. His barn name was Boo. He had two perfect white socks on his front legs, just his pasterns white, and a perfect diamond star and an itty bitty snip of white on his nose. Later on his name was changed to Diamond Boo by me.
I helped Philippa out, cleaning her stalls and exercising her horses. Mostly Boo as he was a chubby guy, easy keeper, and needed some pounds off. He was about 7 years old at the time. Green broke, barely knew walk/trot/turn. Wouldn't back up under saddle if there was a fire under his nose, very stubborn and headstrong. I fell in love with Boo.
Philippa gave me a wonderful birthday gift that year. My birthday falls in mid november, so this was during my lease of the lesson horse Tony, who I was still riding occasionally while I helped Philippa with her horses. My birthday gift was a FREE year's lease on Boo. I still have the piece of paper she wrote it on :)
Fast forward to spring of 1992. Philippa hit some hard financial times, and had to basically give up her horses to the BO to cover board bills (8 horses in a boarding barn meant a huge bill each month). All the horses went to auction, in Innisfail, a town about 2 hours south of Edmonton (where I live). My dad and I drove to the auction, with a strict budget set of $1000. Boo went into the ring, we had never in our lives been at a horse auction before, and the bids quickly got close to our limit. Boo sold to somebody else for just $1025. I was heart broken!
I spent the summer depressed, not riding at all, and wondering if my short experience in the horse world was going to be over forever.
Somehow we tracked down the person that bought Boo at the auction. Turns out it was a trail riding operation just east of Calgary. My dad talked to Boo's new owner and convinced him to sell Boo to us. The guy wouldn't go lower than $1500. My dad agreed. To this day I will never be able to fully express just how much that meant to me. My dad was a single parent, raising me from the age of 11 all on his own. $1500 was a huge chunk of his income to spend on a horse. And then he covered all my horse expenses for years after, as long as I was in school.
So we rented a trailer, drove down to get Boo. I had a friend in school that told me about a great boarding place near my home, and we coordinated arrangements to keep Boo there. To this day I will always call that barn my second home. I kept Boo there from fall of 1992 to fall of 1995, when he foundered and I decided that a barn with an indoor arena was better to keep him worked and keep the weight off him during winter. So took Boo back to the barn where I first met him. By now it had changed hands but was still a nice place. Kept him there til 1998 I think, then moved him back to the 'my second home' barn for about a year, then moved him to a smaller private acreage when a good riding friend moved her horse there too (we rode together quite often and I didn't want to lose that, plus board was slightly less at the smaller place).
Fast forward to 2001. I am now 20 years old and off on my own. Paying rent for my own apartment and all other expenses that come with being an adult. Sadly, I had to choose between supporting myself independently, or living beyond my means and keeping my horse. Was the most difficult thing i've had to do in life, but finances just were not available to do it all. I gave my Boo to the BO for back board bills I owed. To this day I still wonder what happened to him, if he stayed there or if he was sold. I have the gps coordinates of the place I last kept him, just trying to do a gps to address conversion so I can look up the phone number of the acreage, to find out and get closure. I doubt my Boo would still be alive, he was 7 years old in 1991, so that would make him 29 today. But just knowing how the rest of his life ended up would help ease my heart. I've started riding again after a 12 year break, but it doesn't feel quite the same without my heart horse Boo.
So...... that's my first horse story!
This was Boo.