This is me, on Mitsy, at about a year of age.
I have loved and ridden horses since I was a baby. Many of my most significant life moments have been experienced on the back of a horse, and in fact my relationship with them has been so significant that I’ve discovered the most efficient way for me to track time is to think of all the wonderful horses in my life and relate from there.
The horses represent chapters in my life, and more than that. They represent the love of my grandparents; the camaraderie of friends; the thrill of competition; the indulgence in luxury and adventure; and the joy in spending real quality time with a child.
When I reflect on a horse, I instantly remember the other details in my life from that time: who my friends were; where I rode the horse and what I did with it; in later years where I lived; worked; what car I drove; who I dated.
Here I am at about eight with Buck. Buck was the first horse I was allowed to lope, an anxiously awaited privilege accorded to me at age five.
As I child I spent entire summers and as much other time as possible at my grandparent’s ranch at the base of the Owyhee mountains in Idaho. There I rode everything I could catch, often with a twine tied around the lower jaw, “Indian Style.”
Here, at eleven, with Buck, Mitsy and Peanuts. Peanuts was the first horse that was really truly my own.
My sister and I grew up showing in Horse 4-H. Here I am on her mare, Kelly, at the Owyhee County Fair.
As a junior in high school on my second “very own horse,” Cinder. I rode this horse through high school and most of college, until he got a broken leg when he was kicked and had to be put down. I was gone to school at the time and my grandparents didn’t want to tell me the news until I got home. I got up early my first day back for break and bounded upstairs with my boots on to go for a ride. That was a sad day
After college I lived in San Francisco and didn’t ride much until I was about thirty. At that time I got the bug to learn to jump.
After thirty days of lessons I bought Hennessey, a fancy bay thoroughbred gelding. This is our first show, sixty days into my career as a hunter rider. We got first place!
That started a strong love of the discipline of jumping. I bought Austin next, as a “practice” horse and ended up winning more on him than my most expensive mounts.
After a couple of years I started travelling to Germany and Holland with my trainer. There I would buy horses and import them to California for resale. It was a magical time in my horse world, travelling all over Europe with famous Grand Prix riders, riding every horse they would let me throw my leg over. I rode dozens of cool horses, and met lots of interesting people. I even had one memorable trip travelling around Holland with the Princess of Jordan.
This is my favorite horse that I ever imported. Her name was Atlanta, and she was a Hanoverian mare out of Germany. I rode her for several months and I was so sad when she sold.
I travelled more of the world on horseback adventure trips.
I rode over the roughest country imaginable on this non-descript sorrel horse in Australia.
And crossed raging rivers and mountain peaks on the back of a giant black draft-cross mare in New Zealand.
I even ran full speed across the plains of Africa on the back of a polo pony, right in the middle of a herd of giraffe.
When I moved back to Idaho in my mid-thirties, I brought some of the hunter jumpers with me, but found it was impossible to maintain such high maintenance horses without my trainers. I eventually sold them off and moved into barrel racing and roping.
This is one of my nicest barrel racing and roping horses, Jet. He was the first western horse I bought when I moved back to Idaho.
When I married I was able to introduce my young stepdaughters to the joys of horses. This is Sami and Hana riding Annie and Jet.
Eventually I moved into the sports of reining and then reined cow horse. It was from these demanding disciplines that I learned the most about horsemanship and riding.
This is me showing my mare Daz in the novice bridle class at the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno.
When my little girl Annabelle was born I wasted no time in introducing her to the back of a horse. Her love of this magnificent animal started as early as mine did. This is her and I on Lucy.
We raised some babies for a few years. It was so fun to watch them grow up. This is Blossom (Shiney Dresser), with her baby Addie (Shineadoodledoo).
Life forced me to take a little break from owning horses for a few years after the kids were born, but I still rode on occasion through the generosity of friends and relatives.
A couple of years ago I got another horse to call my own. She is a little bay mare named Spice, and I have enjoyed hours and hours of time on her back so far.
The vast majority of time I spend with horses nowadays is shared by my Horsecrazy daughter Annabelle. It is so rewarding to be able to share this joy and passion with her.
Some of the best times of my life have been spent looking through the ears of a horse, and I look forward to spending many more years experiencing the wonder of these incredible animals.
Copyright 2012 Paula Cook
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. ~Winston Churchill