I’ve always loved horses. From the first time I watched Gene Autry and Roy and Dale Evans, I loved the idea of riding away into the sunset. I never really got to ride horses very much as a child, however, because there were too many other mouths to feed at our house. Keeping horses is expensive and when my Daddy was growing up the horses or mules they had were for plowing fields; not for pleasure riding.
I remember once when I was a teenager my friend, Patsy, and her Dad rode their two horses over to our house one afternoon and I got to ride hers out to the end of our road and back. It didn’t take me long to find out that horses have a mind of their own and you have to keep them under control if you want them to go the way you want them to go. Patsy’s horse went along at a nice little trot as we rode away from my house, but when I tried to turn around and head back it was hard to get him going that way. It seems a horse likes heading back to his own barn but doesn’t like it so well when you head them in the opposite direction.
In December 1976, my husband, J.A., asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said: “Well, I’ve always wanted a horse.” It really surprised me when he said he’d see what he could find. We couldn’t find anything locally for sale at that time, so we ended up going to Siler City. We met a man outside a barn who had three horses for sale. We ended up buying a little black mare from him that appeared to be very calm and gentle, even though she was only about 3 years old. J.A. also bought me a saddle and bridle so that I was ready to go riding.
I was in between jobs at that time so I went over to the farm where we had my horse every day that next week. I would brush that little horse until she was as shiny as a raven’s wing. While I brushed away on her coat and got the tangles out of her mane and tail, I was constantly talking to her, getting her used to the sound of my voice. On Saturday morning, a friend of mine, Maria, met me over at the farm. She had her horse stabled there, too, and we planned on going for a nice long trail ride together. I had not even tried to saddle up my horse all week because I knew I was an inexperienced rider and I had promised J.A. that I wouldn’t try to ride her until someone else was around.
Maria and I decided to saddle up my horse first so she could ride her around for me and see how she did. That little horse did fine while we put the saddle and bridle on her but as soon as Maria put her left foot in the stirrup; that little horse started to buck. Maria didn’t even swing her leg across to the other side; she just dropped back down to the ground. We quickly decided that neither one of us was experienced enough to try and ride a bucking bronc that I had named Lady!
Later on though on that same day, some of our friends and family gathered back out at that same farm. I don’t think our husbands could believe our story about that calm little horse turning into a bucking machine when we put a saddle on her. I’m not sure exactly why, but a couple of them decided they could ride her. Believe me when I say they couldn’t. They ended up being bucked onto the ground and then in the emergency room. We should have charged admission that day because it was a better show than any rodeo I’ve ever seen!
We decided to take Lady back to the horse sale at Siler City because we didn’t want to sell her to any of our friends. We hoped to get our money back from that little guy we bought her from, but of course he wasn’t there, so we took a loss on her rather than have someone else get hurt trying to ride her.
After Christmas we heard that Bob Henderson from Ellerbe had a horse for sale. We went to his house and his wife and I rode together for about an hour so I could make sure I could handle this one. I fell in love with that horse and bought him right then and there. He was a good little horse and I kept him for several years.
I really enjoyed having my own horse but quickly found out that all horses have their own little quirks and funny ways. Since they are a lot bigger than we are, it pays to use caution when you are around them. Without even meaning you any harm, they can accidentally step on your foot while being saddled; kick at a fly and hit you instead; or back up against the electric fence and take off running with you on their back. They can balk at walking through water and stop on a dime or take off running back to the barn with you hanging on and yelling Woah! Stop! Halt! or whatever else you might want to say while they keep right on going.
I owned several other horses over the years and have some wonderful memories of trail riding. Sometimes it was just two or three of us girls; sometimes just J.A. and I riding our two horses around the neighborhood and stopping to visit with friends along the way; or my daughter, Jaime, and I just riding trails together back behind our house. That time spent with Jaime ended, however, when she turned 15 and started thinking about wanting a car instead. When she told me one day that she just didn’t have time to feed the horses anymore, I knew it was time to sell her horse. That’s exactly what we did and then put that money towards buying her a little Ford Mustang. At least the car was named after a kind of horse.
Looking back on my days as a horse owner, I realize that horses and humans are a lot alike. We are both social beings that need companionship to be happy and content with our lives. We are both more likely to be happy and content if we have full stomachs and companions around to visit with while we eat. Horses require bits in their mouths so we can control where they go. I feel like sometimes I might have been better off with a bit in my mouth so I would have known which way I needed to go — it also might have prevented me from opening it when I should have kept it shut instead. “A wise man named Solomon once said: “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” Maybe that’s advice that we should all heed before we do too much horsing around!!!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County and a member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, Richmond County Historical Society and Richmond County Writers Club.