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Rants / Horse Stories

So, when you were a little girl, did you read EVERY horse story & book you could get your hands on?  James Harriot novels are a favorite, especially the horse encounters, right?  Don't you love Dick Francis mysteries because they're so well written?  Nah, you love 'em because they're HORSE stories. 

Not that what we're writing is particularly what could be termed as  literary works, but we're throwing them out there anyway.  And, if you REALLY wanted to know, we DID own a chestnut TB named Literature, so there!!! 

Rant # 1  The Old Gray Mare Song 

Here they are - the lyrics to Old Gray Mare song.  After doing my homework & really pondering the lyrics, I'm left wondering why folks have embraced the sentiment that the song is a negative view of horses & women. 

After thinking about it, I'm not sure it's such a bad thing to BE an old gray mare.  First of all, I don't want to be as I used to be.  I know I'm BETTER than I used to be.  Do you remember turning 40?  It wasn't so bad and fifty wasn't too awful either.  We're still the same person inside, but better, I think, because our years on earth have given us wisdom that only comes from living. 

The OGM lyrics can be interpreted as a lament about  horses and/or women, that as they age human & equine ladies are just not as good as they get older. There is no denying that as we age, we physically are NOT the same as when in our youth.  However, I have a lot of first hand experience with older horses, and now that I'm in my 50's, my friends are older women too. 

If offered a young horse and an old horse to take home, I'd pick the old one first, hands down.   They've been there, done that, and any problems are evident.  It's a choice of experience over "needs more training & miles".   Maybe I appreciate the value of experience more now that I'm older too.  No matter what the song says, I disagree that the song means that  old horses and older folks are worthless & past their prime. Old gray mares, horses AND women, are just plain better.  And as for the song's old gray mare?  Whoever she was, I hope she had a good life after all.


Rant # 2  My First Horse REALLY Was an Old Gray Mare
My first REAL "pony" was Sher Magic,  a National Show Horse (FYI - an  arab/standard bred) mare who was aptly described later as "pretty for her age but no pleasure to ride."  Sher was 19 when we bought her for $200 from a gal who, we found out later, just wanted to get rid of her.  "She's a great school horse for a beginner rider..."  Neither my husband or I had ridden since we were in our teens; and at least I married a guy who is as horse infatuated as I was.  By the time Sher came along, we were both in our mid 30's and had a 3 year old son.  The price was right, and Sher seemed a good, safe first horse.  Wrong!  She dumped my husband many times, was terribly opinionated and had the most jarring jog known to mankind when you headed for home.  She didn't like many folks, but we seemed to get along. Don't know why, but she trusted me & when everyone else gave up, she'd calmly let me do whatever it was that needed to be done.  Under saddle, she was a delight (except for that jog!) with me, but a nasty, tough mouthed old nag for anyone else brave enough to climb aboard.  She finally did tolerate my husband & took great care with my young son as long as I was attached to her lead line.  In the end, she was my old gal.  Sher finally had to be retired  when she began collapsing in the rear.  One day she couldn't get up, and that was the day the vet was called.  We had her until she was 22 years old.  

Next I tried a younger horse, and it didn't work out.  After several incidents,  I was so badly shaken that I almost didn't get back on a horse for the rest of my life.  When I decided I DID want to ride, I went out of my way to find a good, solid animal with a lot of training and minimal vices.  And one I could afford.  The options?  It was limited to older horses that nobody really wanted any longer.  And that, to me, was the start of a very good thing. 

Commanche, (aka ManMan) was a Morgan/Arab gelding.  I got him when he was just 20 years old.  His gift was to give me back my confidence. He waited until I was ready for me to improve my riding skills and then continued to take care of me.  When my husband got a younger TB gelding, ManMan taught the baby how to be a nice equine citizen.  Trail rides were a delight, especially with my neighbor and her big white gelding Fred.  Our boys were a pair. and we called them the old men's club. I remember one time riding ManMan in our local arena.  I was condescendingly told that I was cantering on the wrong lead.  My reply?  "You know, this old boy is 24 years old.  That he can take any lead at all is fine by me." My girlfriend hooted and with that, I knew I was back.  I had ManMan until he died at age 26.

Then came the love of my life, An-Nel-Lee Hope. I got her at age 24 and my friends thought I was crazy to get a such an old horse, until they saw Hope and said "that horse isn't 24 year old !"  But she was a registered Morgan and her papers didn't lie. She challenged me and her sure knowledge of everything was bestowed with love.  In addition, she served as a 4H project horse for a young lady (pictured) who loved horses but unable to keep a horse.  Growing up horse crazy and horseless myself, I knew what it meant to be able to have a horse in her life.  I had Hope until she was a few weeks over 30 years of age.   

 Now I am privileged to be owned by Miss Triton, another Morgan mare.  She was a youngster when I got her - only 19 years old.  But now she's 26,my best buddy and probably the most courageous horse I've ever owned.  She's fiesty, and loves to kick up her heels, but manages to build confidence in every horse & rider she takes out in the rugged Arizona trails.   I knew her for many years when she was previously owned by a family in our 4H club.  We walked through fire, literally, with her.  We were living in Ramona CA and survived the devastating wildfire that swept through San Diego county in 2003.  The fire started only a few miles from our home, and we evacuated on the run, just in front of the flames. I can still see my husband running down the street, leading  Miss T & our gelding,  and the flames licking so close.

Having an old horse is a blessing.  They've been around the block more times than you know, have been there & done that.  They're  pretty fearless because they've seen & done it all. Not much suprises them and if something new comes along, they handle it with grace, unlike a youngster who snorts, wheels, bolts & puts their rider in jeaperdy.  They are good with children, and appreciate every grooming session, especially when you find their itchy spots.  They appreciate every carrot and apple. 

Rant #3  I'm A Better Rider Now That I'M An Old Gray Mare
When I ride, I certainly do not take the risks I used to.  I don't HAVE to jump that log, nor do I HAVE to kick my horse into a dead run just for the thrill of it.  Not that I needed to do any of this in my youth, but at the present age I KNOW that it's better to be safe & continue to ride my horse vs. do something stupid and not be able to ride at all.

I intentionally get older horses, and would like to think I'm their best last home.  Each of my old timers has taught me so much.  There are many quirks about older animals, but it boils down to some basics:  never take good health for granted,  always be watchful for changes, challenge them only within their physical limits, and never expect them to give more than they can or you are willing to give.  To ride a wonderful animal that trusts you as much as you trust them is something that I cherish. 

Another thing that they taught me is that treating people, including myself, as you treat an old horse works too.  At my age, it's best to never take good health for granted,  always be watchful for changes, challenge only within physical limits, and never expect to give more than can be done or I'm willing to give. 

The Lord's golden rule applies to not only women but to our horses, especially in our golden years - do onto others as you would have others do onto you.  And as for the old gray mare?  I agree that she ain't what she used to be.  I think that old gray mares, horses AND women, are better !

An Honor to Mention
He can't be an Old Gray Mare, but thought we'd at least give a big OGM salute to Hiroshi Hoketsu,  one of the oldest Olympians. Hiroshi was 22 when he competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and started riding when he was 12.  He rides a chestnut mare named Whisper.  "Initially I was a little reluctant about having my age splashed across the news," he said in an interview during the '08 Olympics. "I didn't see why my age should be such a big thing. I wasn't selected for the Olympics because I'm 67." When speaking about riding, he says "If anything, " he says, "I'm more passionate about it than ever."



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    Copyright 2006-11 by C Troisi-Hoerr for OldGrayMares.com.  All Rights Reserved Updated 02/10/11