When I was a kid we almost always had snow for Christmas. Not like here, where we usually have mud or ice.
We had snow nearly all winter long. Deep snow. The kind of deep, cold snow you can only get in Kansas. The kind that drifts and packs well. I remember spending a good portion of my Christmas break with my little brown pony, Blaze.
That little Shetland-cross became my new best friend when I was in third grade and she stayed with my family until my senior year. I had long outgrown her and she had been standing around doing nothing and really missing the daily loving she had grown used to over the years. So, my mom found her a home with a family and another horse-crazy kid to teach some life-long lessons to.
I know there are TONS more pictures of Blaze out there, but my mom has them. This is one of my favorites and displayed on my wall. Any guesses where she got her oh so original name? Please excuse the quality..it's a photo of a photo. I don't have a scanner.
Blaze was just as crazy as me, maybe a bit more. She wasn't really well-broke when I got her, but that pony really taught me how to ride. It's probably a good thing I was absolutely fearless or I would have never enjoyed her as much as I did. She taught me how to dismount at a full gallop and cling to a runaway pony cart. She taught me patience by staying just out of reach in the pasture when I tried to catch her and she decided she didn't really want to be caught. She taught me humility when she dumped me in mud puddles out on the trail and left me to walk back to the barn. Or swam out to the middle of Breakneck Lake and left me standing on shore, waiting for her to be done with her little swim and allow me to catch her. She taught me how to think quickly about all possible outcomes when she ran away with me and no amount of pulling or yelling at her would engage the brakes. I learned how to duck, fast, when she aimed straight for the lowest branch. She could go English, Western, bareback, Indian-style (you know, just a loop of rope around her bottom jaw) and could drive.
We went to western shows, English shows, fox-hunted, went trail riding, went swimming, went driving and jumped every obstacle imaginable on the old cavalry training field at Ft. Riley.
During the winter we'd trail ride in the snow bareback. When the snow was deep and slick enough enough and my sister willing enough, I'd put the western saddle on that rotund little pony, find a really long rope and tie the disk sled to the saddle. I was the driver in the saddle, my sister, the sucker on the sled. My goal was to whip her right off that sled with crazy fast riding, hairpin turns, spins and leaps over ditches.
You'd think that after a few winters of such "sleigh rides" my sister would get a clue and refuse to be the sucker on the sled. Or maybe I was just a bit intimidating and coerced her into going sledding with me.
She was the driver in the saddle a few times, but her style of driving was far too tame for me so I'd try to take over the reins. Blaze could drive and of course I tried driving her while sitting on the sled. Did I mention she could become a runaway pony in seconds? Talk a ride that would take the skin right off your teeth!
I don't know how my mother survived my pony years. If it was conceivable, I would try it, no matter how hair-brained or insane it might be. And back then helmets were for shows only. Heck, during the summer, riding in a pair of shoes was pushing it. Bareback in short shorts and a tube top, barefoot, with just a thin rope looped around Blaze's jaw was how I spent the summer.
She taught me how to ride fearlessly and with passion. Her intolerance for bad riding taught me to be a thinking rider with compassion for my partner. She was the foundation of my passion and love for all things equine.