Thursday, January 30, 2014


Today I found an old photo of me on a horse. Well....this story is what it triggered. I wrote it several years ago. Here is the photo that started the whole memory to return - again.

Please click on image to enlarge


Memory Story #2
Linda is a female given name. Someone told me to pronounce it “Leenda.” This may have come from the Spanish word linda, which is the feminine form of lindo, meaning “pretty, beautiful.” When I researched in a publication called “Spanish for Beginners” under the section “Pronouncing Vowels” it told me that “i” is pronounced similarly to the “ee” in “feet” and the “e” in “me,” although usually a little briefer. Therefore, my story is about a little girl thinking she had a horse with an exotic name! She called her horse “Leenda.”

Chapter 1
Ok, now on with my story. My dad was a dairy tester. He regularly traveled to every dairy farm throughout our small state taking small samples of milk from each cow as she was being milked. The samples were brought home to be tested in our cellar by the use of a centrifuge and acid and calipers. I’m not sure of just what tests he performed but the final written reports, showing all information and a diagram of markings of each cow, were sent to the state university for (I’m guessing now) records of butterfat. This would then reflect herd production and values of the cows. Forgive me if I’m not 100% accurate about his job.
There were quite a few of the dairy farms that were very profitable businesses and many had horse stables. Some had working horses, which they used regularly, and some had riding and show horses. I remember that at least one was a horse breeding farm. This is where I was exposed to those wonderful creatures at a very young age. When I was a bit older, maybe around 10, Dad took me with him and I roamed free, mostly throughout the stables. I dipped my fingers into the barrels of sticky molasses. I touched and smelled harness and tack. I ran my hands through the oat grain bins. I made friends with the stablemen and boys and the grooms. I made friends with the horses. I soaked up knowledge. My love grew and GREW! There was usually a package of hard Charms candies in my pocket. These were for the horses. A special one, “Jiminy,” would see me coming and whinny for a Charm. He'd take it ever so gently and lick my palm for a long time after. Wow! What a feeling!
One time, “Scotty” the groom with a heavy brrrr accent, found me sitting cross legged in the straw in a corner of a stall which housed a “cantankerous” stallion! The tongue lashing I got after he coaxed me out into the aisle was memorable. His face was scary red and he was shaking. It seems that the particular stallion had already kicked, bitten, and struck out at everyone who came near him. He was stalled most of the time and only used for breeding. I knew nothing about him and wasn’t a bit afraid to pet and admire him up close. I had opened the stall and gone right in! I learned later that it’s a good thing I hadn’t started menstruating yet because I might have been in real trouble.
Soon after that episode, Dad decided to find a horse for me that I could call my own. We were very poor, but there are always ways...........
One of the wealthy lady horsepersons on a farm had loaned her old (24) retired hunter to a lady in a village near our home. Now after a talk with my very convincing and concerned dad, she decided to re-loan this particular horse to me because she was “safe for a child.” A small and vacant horse barn (no water supply or electricity available) nearby our home was rented for $5.00 a month and we were “horse ready.” Oops! I didn’t even know how to saddle up no less ride! My uncle, who had older girls with horses and horsemanship experiences gave us an old English type saddle, rubber pad and bridle with a bar bit, double reins. The local feed store gave us a credit account for straw, oats, salt and hay. Shovels, a pitchfork and pails were found - I don’t know where. An old wheelbarrow was found, too. I had a horse!!! Her name was “Leenda.” She WAS beautiful, to me.
She was solid chestnut with a chestnut wispy mane and tail and only a small star of white. Beautiful! to my eyes, an elegant and graceful package. Her breed was never discussed and I don’t know it. She was 15 hands high, and lean. The facts that I today understand, is that her neck was ewed, her hip bones protruded, her front tendons were bowed and she had a sharp wither spine bone with a swayed back. That was age, of course, but I never saw any of it then.
I carried water in two tin pails from a firehouse down the road to the barn two times a day, before school and after school. When I ran out of straw for bedding, I had to collect leaves in burlap bags to use. I gave “pony rides” around the ball field down the road for 10¢ around the bases three times. That earned money for the needed feed and bedding supplies. I babysat as often as I could. A full set of hot shoes cost $5.00. The blacksmith said her hooves weren't very strong. He showed me how to clean and dress them. He gave me feeding and health hints. I had to pay for everything myself and soon learned the lessons of earning and spending.
Once I had learned to tack up (she always blew up when I tightened the girth) and mount, the rest was easy. She taught me how to ride and the fun began.
Chapter 2
I didn’t know the word “post” or “diagonal” but sure knew it was either stand up in the stirrups or sit and jounce until I got a terrible pain in my side and then had to go back from the trot to the walk. After a while, I just naturally picked up the “up-down, up-down, up-down” trick of rising and sitting in a rhythm when trotting. I also learned how to “sit-a-bump” just to break up the monotony of the post. I set up rocks in the pasture and wove in and out around them until I felt secure enough to drop the reins and just use my body and seat and legs to steer while trotting. Powerful feelings went through me with this accomplishment. Sometimes she'd break into a singlefoot gait, only at her decision. It was a comfortable and smooth ride while it lasted, even though I didn’t think it unusual for a retired hunter to rack because I didn't know what a rack was!
I didn’t know what a canter or gallop were either, except that Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry seemed to go lickety split when chasing the bad guys, and I also wanted to go full tilt. I remember that it came as a complete shock and surprise one morning as I leaned forward at a snappy trot and Leenda leaped into a transitional canter! Whoa! What the heck was that?! It happened! It almost unseated me! It scared and thrilled me too. I was learning to ride. She was very kind to me, never balking or fighting my inept cues.
There were many riding trails throughout the countryside and as my confidence grew, so did my traveling explorations. On a lovely autumn day, I encountered a gentleman driving a a flashy pony in an open carriage. He waved me down and asked me who I was and what my horse's name was. Then he introduced himself as the owner of the property where I was riding and gave me permission to go on, but to be careful not to get lost. This 12 year old girl would never get lost, right? Well I did. Leenda found our way home with me hugging her neck and crying all the way. She sure had horse sense. I learned later that the pony was a Hackney and the dapper driving gent was one of the wealthiest breeder/trainers in the state! He also was a nice and generous person.
There were several different types of horse shows held each year that were within traveling distance for me. I used to ride my “nag” to the shows, pull up ringside, watch and remember as much as I could. The weeks following my venture to a show were filled with attempts to duplicate what I saw. Most of all I wanted to jump! So, of course, I set up jumps in the pasture with bales of hay, wooden milk crates and tree branches and small logs from the pasture boundaries. Over we went. I saw ears beneath me many times but I never fell off. The obstacles were made higher and higher until confidence waned and common sense ruled. Then wide jumping was attempted. The stream that ran through the pasture was both narrow and wide, depending on where you were. The banks leading down to it and up after it were fairly steep. It was a challenge. I didn’t know it was so potentially dangerous and back and forth, over and over them, we bound. Poor Leenda. I had no mercy.
I remember that the summertime flies were always bad and my dad put together an insecticide mix to fill a tin sprayer. The filled can was attached to a plunger type hand pump. She hated being sprayed, rolling her eyes and pulling back and I had to tie her tightly to the fence post. Vaseline was applied to the inside of her ears and under her belly. I really injured her with kindness once by rubbing her swollen bowed tendons with my grandma's wintergreen oil and then wrapping her cannons with gauze. When I removed the gauze a couple of days later, the hair and skin came off too. No one told me to do this. It was my own idea. The tendons were actually better after my amateur vetting. Unfortunate Leenda. She was a victim of my learning process. I meant well.
Chapter 3
I was an accomplished bareback rider at age 13 and my girlfriend could hop on behind me and share the adventures. We rode together often and sometimes all three of us “girls” went into the pond. It wasn’t long before her dad decided to buy her a horse of her own too and “Lady” was stabled in a stall next to Leenda. Lady was younger and regularly came into heat, kicking out. We tried not to pasture them together when she was so moody.
Age was taking its toll on my equine companion. She was loosing weight because her teeth were worn and chewing was difficult. Grass was more tender but I noticed that she often spit out wet wads of hay. Her oats were being eliminated whole and I knew something had to be done. My grandpa, Daddy's dad, suggested that I feed her a mash concoction. I mixed crushed oats with bran, shredded carrots, a whole raw egg, molasses and warm water in a bucket. This was carried twice daily to the barn. The barn was about a half mile up the road from our house, but I had to mix it at home because of the need for warm water. She began to thrive after a couple of months and it was well worth my effort. I never thought about the financial costs to Mom for providing me with so many carrots and eggs until I was much older.
Now this is the tragic part of my story. Leenda and Lady were both in the pasture and my girlfriend and I didn’t know Lady was in heat. We went one morning to go riding and found Leenda standing on only three legs with the left rear hind leg dangling and shaking violently. There wasn’t much blood, but the shattered bone was sticking way out. I wanted to die on the spot! We both knew what had happened and were overwhelmed at the sight. Lady kicked Leenda and broke her leg. Today, I’m not so sure that’s what happened but back then we were positive and horrified. What a sight we must have been! Two hysterically screaming girls racing home to get help. Dad was there and we explained what we saw, between sobs. He told us to stay home and he'd get a vet to go right over there. Dad jumped in the car and disappeared down the road. We clung to each other and made a decision. We HAD to go back! We went back.
We stayed hidden. The deed was done and the vet was just leaving, walking slowly and bent over with his head down and the big gun in his hand. There was only a crumpled mass of horse, lying by the gate. When we had last seen her she was not close to the gate. It only took a moment for us to realize that he
must have actually led her there on three legs to take care of the matter. That way the dead wagon wouldn’t have to drag the body from the pasture. Dad was nowhere in sight. He was grieving privately, I know.
With macabre curiosity we both went to see the body. There was a small hole in her white star. Her eyes were open and her tongue was hanging out to the side. The broken leg was a terrible sight. This was a merciful death and a lesson for my lifetime. Love can hurt.
Dad soon found me another loaned-out horse, a showy polo pony that could spin and turn on a dime, but I couldn't let myself love any horse ever again (until my “Bobbi” 35 years later).
My throat seized up with a huge lump and tears flowed as I wrote the end of this story. I've held this pain in for 60 years and just had to get it out. Sometimes memories aren't pleasant. Now I’m going to bury this one.
GMR August 23, 2007  
Singlefoot, is an old time term used to denote a horse that traveled in a gait other than the standard walk, trot, lope/canter. The term, “singlefoot‚” is intended to describe an instant in the sequence of footfalls where there is only one foot on the ground. Old waddies (cowboys) had their own term, “sop n’ tater‚” which was used to refer to the singlefoot gait. If you ride a singlefoot, you can hear the same even four beat gait, just as “sop n’ tater‚” is evenly timed if you say it aloud. In some references, singlefoot is used interchangeably with “rack.” Other terms that are and have been used, usually varying with the geography include:  running walk, pacey, ambler, stepping pace, traveler, soft gaited, fox trot, paso, and probably some more. This intermediate gait occurs in between a walk and a trot. I’m talking about natural intermediate gaits, not artificial show gaits. It can be performed at a range of speeds from a relaxed trail speed of 7 to 9 mph, to a ground-eating road gait of 12 to 15 mph, to the breathtaking racing single-foot (the speed from which the name “single-footing” was derived) of over 20 mph. The singlefoot gait is very easy on the rider. Many breeds of horses, including Morgans, are capable of producing this gait, as it’s thought to be genetic.
American Saddlebred
Icelandic horse
Missouri Foxtrotter Paso Fino
Peruvian Paso
Racking horse
Rocky Mountain Horse
Spotted Saddle horse
Tennessee Walker
In most "gaited" breeds, an ambling gait is a hereditary trait. However, some representatives of these breeds may not always gait, and some horses of other breeds not listed above may have ambling gaited ability, particularly with training. 
Why is it that when I venture into something new I actually relive something old? Am I a person so attached to the past that whatever path I take, leads back to it?


  1. This was a very lovely post. I certainly can relate. Though a cat is not a horse, (I think I learned that in fourth grade) my sister just lost her beloved Onyx this passed Monday. Animals certainly work their way into your heart.
    Nice job.

  2. What a story. It was truly heartwarming and sad. You are such a gifted writer.

  3. A wonderful story I love old pictures too and the one of you on the horse is priceless!

  4. My horse was not having an exotic name like your Leenda! Mine was Lucky.

    Loved reading this...very interesting indeed.