We Stave kids learned to ride on huge draft horses. Daddy always had a matched team of horses that he would harness up to a stoneboat with runners in the winter, or a buggy with wheels in the summer. A lot of times he would even be the horse, pulling us around the yard for fun. In the later 60’s, he got into the PMU business, which was collecting pregnant mares urine for birth control and hormone pills for women. I often brag, ( that’s when you know your scooping low for something to brag about ), that I had the worst chores in the world as a kid. Dumping a hundred and ten little jugs of urine into big barrels…glug, glug, glug!
My Dad dumping the jugs, and showing how a horse was harnessed.
When I was ten, one of the happiest days of my life happened and it had to do with….a horse. I had watched my brother, Sonny, compete for a year or so in horseshows around the area. We were members of The Rolling Hills Saddle Club. As part of that club, a point system where you traveled to hosted horse show events by other saddle clubs in the small towns around North Dakota, was part of the fun. You entered events such as barrel racing, pole bending, keyhole races, trail class, western pleasure and many others. Depending on if and where, you placed in the events, you received points at every show. I had been riding draft horses, ponies, and mares that my dad would take in for breeding fees, since I was four or five. When I was eleven, my Dad, who’d been down in the barn, poked his head in the front door and yelled, “Pam, come down to the barn I have to show you something”. That never happened before, so I ran to the barn to see a bay horse tied to a post in the barn. He had a white star and snip on his face. Dad prodded, “ you know who that is don’t you”? I didn’t. He exclaimed, “its Cowboy Clarke, and he’s yours IF YOU CAN PROVE TO ME YOU CAN HANDLE HIM THIS SUNDAY AT THE FAIR“! All I knew about that horse was that he had been ridden against, and even beat Sonny’s horse from time to time, in some horse shows. I would handle him, no doubt about it!
Dad said, “saddle him up and meet me over in the alpha, alpha field”. he drove off with the pickup truck loaded with barrels and wooden posts. By the time I got there, he had the posts driven in the ground and the barrels paced out and set up. I didn’t know I was going to be in for the ride of my life in a just few seconds. I expected to lope around the barrel, steering wide, same being said for the pole bending. That’s what Kathy and I had been doing with our other horses.
When I turned Clarke toward the first barrel, out there in the field, he took off like lighting! I was thinking of nothing but gopher holes…. don’t fall in a gopher hole! He knew the pattern, and could have run it without me, and the steering was more about steering him away from the barrels! I managed to stay on, and when i finished my Dad was laughing, like he did when we just got scared silly! Now it was on to the pole bending. This time I was a little better prepared for the ride ahead. Clarke raced down beside the poles, weaved in and out and I was more concerned about losing a knee cap than falling off! Most people had poles that were built for this, they were a pole with X’s on the bottom, that just tipped over if you hit one to practice with. But that would be time consuming, so he just drove ours in the ground with a post mall, and if you hit one you knew it! I had a little more trouble stopping the horse than I did the first time, but Dad thought I did ok. This was Friday, the fair competition was Sunday!
Dad entered me in the youth division in barrels and poles at the fair. I could not believe I was actually riding a horse at the fair! The state fair, the biggest event of the year for us! I placed fifth in pole bending and came home with a pink ribbon, and broke the pattern in barrel racing because he circled a timing post on the way to the first barrel! Dad was happy with me, and Mom was relieved I didn’t get hurt, and I was happy because I got to keep the horse!
That horse became my life! The next summer came and I got on the little saddle club circuit and did well all summer winning trophies and looking forward to Sundays and seeing my friends I’d made from other small towns who rode every Sunday too. I felt good at something and I even overheard people saying I was the one to beat! At the end of the year, in November they always had the a Northwest Saddle Club awards night. They gave out the awards and trophies for the whole year. These awards were the sum total of all points, from all the saddle clubs, from all the small towns. We always went to that and I really wanted to go this year in case I won something.
My Dad got hurt the end of the summer before the awards night, tying up a mare in a stall. He was getting ready for the new season of collecting urine. The mare was new and he didn’t know her. She reared back and lunged forward pining him up against the manger. He staggered out of the stall, and Mom rushed him to the ER. He had internal injuries, spent three weeks in the hospital, and died October 16, 1967.
Me on Clarke, Marcy on Poco, and Kathy on Plowgirl
Without getting into how painful that was, or how many days I cried into Clarks’ neck, it was really painful when on awards night. Sonny and I went to the awards night alone. Kathy had the flu so Mom stayed home with her. I won smaller trophies, for barrels, poles and trail class, and a huge wooden trophy for All Around Jr. Horsemanship! My Dad would have been so proud! Driving home from Kenmare, Sonny and I didn’t talk about Dad, no one ever talked about Dad, but there was a huge emptiness for us. Mom proudly displayed my trophies on the writing desk, and tried to be happy enough for two parents.
Sonny lost interest in going to shows, he had his own little family now. Mom tried to take Kathy and I to the shows, so we could continue with the life we loved. During one show, in Powers Lake the events were running late, and it was getting dark with no lights in the arena. As Clarke pranced into the arena I hoped he could see the first barrel because I couldn’t! It was too dark! Turns out he couldn’t either, and we charged through the metal fence, both Clarke and I falling. That shut down the events for the night! (I just had a thought, that would be a lawsuit these days for some people).
We loaded our horses in the grey pickup with a red stock rack ( didn’t even have a horse trailer back then) and started home. My horse nervously pranced back and forth, rocking the pickup and making it hard to keep it stable on the road. To top it all off, we had a flat tire and had to unload the horses in a ditch and change a tire in the dark! That was the end of horse shows, unless they were right around home. Mom cried, and told us, she was sorry but we just couldn’t do it without Dad.
I kept Clarke until a fourteen year old girl called me and wanted to buy him for $500, in 1980. He was fifteen years old by then. She was going to take him to horse shows again. I weighed what $500. meant to my little family, the fact that Sonny didn’t like keeping him apart from the mares and stallions because he was a gelding, and I ask myself, do I want to keep him just for me, to find him dead sometime? Or do I want that girl to feel what I had back then, and Clarke to get to do what he loved, and that was going to shows and being with a human. So, I sold him, ending of my horse years.
Brendon riding Clarke in the corral the day I sold him :(
I shut out thoughts of horses for a long time. But when I look back to who I was, before I was a wife and mother, and what I loved, horses were my life. I found myself feeling sad when Sydney came up with loving to ride, and went riding with her friend her first time other than clomping along on a trail ride. I was sad that I couldn’t teach her what was so much a part of me, and still is in there somewhere.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to be one of those old broads trying to be young dressed with a hat and tight jeans, or entering the rodeo circuit anytime soon. I just would like to make peace with how that all ended and do some riding again.
That’s one more reason to stick with my "sparkle program". You can’t regain time lost, but if you do the same thing you get the same results. Do I want to lose more time being too out of shape to ride a horse? Do I want more of the same, or want my life back? I’m a month into trying feel better inside and out and I lost ten pounds this month. I ask myself was it really so hard? Its not, its all a mind game. The hardest part is mentally getting on and keeping myself on the treadmill! Sydney wants me to join her at Zumba. However, I should probably wait till I could do more than one number before I'm slumped against the wall! Maybe that will be more fun than the treadmill I don’t know, I’m not a gym rat in case you missed that ha!
Brendon sent me a link for a Quarter Horse ( the only horse for me ) horse show in Scottsdale yesterday. I enjoyed walking around, watching the events and looking at horses that cost as much as a house, some of them. They are awesome creatures for sure! I miss them.