My dad was born and raised in southern Utah. After my grandfather was killed when Dad was 8 years old, he was sent to work on a ranch. Dad has always had a love of horses and dogs. He raised me around both. Dad became an Air Force pilot, we moved a lot and were not able to have horses for a number of years. When I was 9, while living in NW Florida, we got our first horses as a family: a QH and a Welsh/Arab pony. My passion for horses grew out of those roots.
In Florida we had a good stable and riding club at Eglin AFB, and lots of area for trail riding. I would ride out with a friend and go out to the bay and swim, riding the horse out into the bay and diving off her back. In those days I didn't know much about the technical aspects of training and riding a horse, but I learned a lot about how people and horses interrelate and gained a lot of confidence. Starting off with a pony was great, as the ground is a lot closer!
During that period Dad was sent to Viet Nam and Korea for service. Mom's passion for horses grew and she kept us involved with our horses while Dad was away. She never quite compared to Dad with horsemanship, but her love of all animals, and her special way with them, was and is an inspiration to me. All animals, including horses respond to her in a way I have witnessed in few other human/animal relationships.
High point: Dad supervising as my little brother and I tried to break Sugar (the pony) to ride double. Never succeeded, but had a blast getting bucked off, tail over teakettle into the arena sand, time after time, after time, while Dad heehawed on the fence rail and Mom fretted and fussed at him for putting us in dangers way.
About 1972 we moved to North Carolina. We took the horses with us. We eventually added two Quarter Horses to our family, one for Mom and the other for Dad. In NC we became active members of a riding club that hosted shows every three months. What a blast! I learned how to really ride, sit a saddle, and handle a horse during those years, my junior high school years. I never cared much for the show classes, like halter and Western Pleasure, but I loved the games! Fastest horse around the arena, barrels, and especially Western Rescue Race!
During that period Dad bought a farm and we started a boarding stable and riding school. At one point we had around 20 head and had the largest riding school in the county. I began to learn the technical things about western riding and began to study to become an instructor under my dad's tutelage. However, life had other ideas and we were transferred to Tucson, AZ for my high school years. When we moved, we took five horses with us, including my yearling half-Arab stallion. During high school I trained and broke my little stallion, but before I could finish him, hard times forced us to sell off most of our horses, including my stallion. During this period, my dad started me on horse pack trips and hunting.
Low point: After we moved to Arizona my high school years, Sugar died of colic. I'll never forget the tears my father shed over that pony.
High point: Just after I graduated high school, Dad was a Boy Scout leader. He invited me to assist him in taking 22 Scouts, between the ages of 14 and 16 on a 100-mile pack trip in the White Mountains of Arizona. What an experience. 22 Scouts, 5 adults (including myself and Dad) and 32 horses. I could probably write a book about that trip.
After serving as a federal law enforcement officer for more than 23 years, I retired this year. I am finally getting back to my roots with horses. As I take care of nearly 30 years of "deferred maintenance" on things around the home and family, I again have a horse I am training and a student I am teaching to ride. I am preparing for a great trip a friend and I intend to make in 2015. We are planning to take the Great Western Trail from Mexico to Canada, a trip of around 2500 miles. I will be 56. Dad intends to take part of the trek with us. He will be 81.
That will be another high point.