As a young child plus also as a teenager I was Horse mad. I read books about Horses, did drawings of Horses, decorated my room with images of Horses (from magazines or ‘photo finish’ pictures from the Newspaper), made pottery Horses & a Papier Mâché Horse as well as made Horses out of fabric. I didn’t have a horse of my own but there was usually a Horse close by. Mum & Dad had three ¼ acre blocks of land side by side. One had the house the 2nd had trees & shrubs and room to run around in. The 3rd block was called the ‘Horse Paddock’. A horse called Dandy often grazed there to keep the grass under control. I would often draw him and also persuaded Mum to let me take photos of him. Having read “Wish for a Pony” by Monica Edwards I dreamed of having my own Horse but until then I needed to know how to ride and care for a Horse or Pony!
I was so keen to learn to ride that after much begging and pleading Mum agreed that seeing as my 2 younger brothers were able to play soccer (no teams for girls so therefore nothing for my sister & I to do) that if reasonably priced riding lessons could be found an effort would be made to get me there. A High School Art teacher from the 1st High School in our large town (I attended the new 2nd High School) had a Riding School with lessons running on Saturday mornings for $2 per hour. It was a lot of money in those days and being on the other side of the river the Riding School was quite a long distance from our house. Mum reasoned that as the boys often needed to be transported long distances to soccer matches then she or Dad would make the effort to get me to riding lessons also.
The thing I remember most about the lessons was that being really ‘up close & personal’ with Horses gave me Hay Fever! It seemed to me that I was Allergic to Horses!! I guess I hadn’t really noticed until then as I didn’t usually get very close to Dandy as it made drawing much more difficult. What a blow! Did that stop me going to riding lessons? No way….every time my eyes felt itchy or inflamed, I would repeat to myself “Don’t scratch your eyes, don’t scratch your eyes…..don’t scratch your eyes!” Mostly I managed and just washed my face as soon as possible afterwards & just out of pure stubborn determination put up with the sneezing & nose blowing! The 2nd thing I remember about the lessons was Mrs McPhee. She was a slim rather stern woman with a very load voice who always wore a silk scarf either around her neck or to tie her hat on. I found her to be quite frightening at times even though she was only doing her best to teach us how to ride well. “Heels down, knees in, don’t be so feeble” she would say in her loud school teacher voice. Somehow that didn’t help when Estrellita the little chestnut pony that was more like a barrel on legs decided she was sick of walking round & round the square yard following all the other horses. First she’d cut the corners “Don’t be so feeble!” Mrs McPhee would call out but next time around no matter how hard I would pull on the reins or use my legs we would end up standing in the centre of the yard. “Lesson over” Estrellita would seem to say & that was that!
I liked riding Jupiter much more he was grey with a large oval red roan patch on one side (thus the name) but he was old & was for beginners to learn on. Occasionally (if all the other horses were taken) I got to ride Sinbad the flee-bitten grey Anglo Arab but seeing as he was a Dressage Horse he knew exactly what to do & I pretty much just sat there & enjoyed the view as he was quite tall. Maybe my riding was improving or maybe I was getting too ‘tall’ for Jupiter (though it is unlikely as I stopped growing at 5 foot and 1 quarter inches! BTW the ¼ inch is very important!) but soon it was time for me to be put on other horses. Then along came a horse I thought was called “Brusker” but later discovered was called Busker (like a street performer). I didn’t like him at first he was chestnut (bay was my favourite horse colour & still is) but Mrs McPhee decided I should ride him on a regular basis and eventually I grew to love him very much. One weekend either I was sick or one of my brothers had an ‘away’ game for soccer (can’t recall the exact reason) I didn’t get to go riding. The next week I went to riding lessons as usual but Busker wasn’t there. Someone told me he had died of colic during the week. I was so upset ‘How could Mrs McPhee have let that happen?!’ But apparently she had been quite upset about it too. I wasn’t quite sure about that as she was as stony faced as ever. I don’t really ever remember having seen her smile.
I really didn’t feel like going riding much more after that. So when mum said that money was getting tight I said that it was okay I didn’t ‘need’ to go any more if Busker wasn’t there. My Mum was and still is very artistic (drawing, painting and ceramics). At the time she taught pottery lessons to children so I had the opportunity to I make a pottery ‘bust style’ portrait of Busker. I still have it & it puts a tear in my eyes when I think about not getting to say ‘goodbye’ to him properly. I just took it for granted that he would always be there.