This is a date that stands out on my calendar every year. Whenever November 27 comes around, I think back to a very skinny freckled eleven year old girl who wanted nothing more than to have her own horse. Every inch of my bedroom wall had posters of horses, all my shelves were filled with horse books and horse figurines and my bed piled with stuffed horses. Everything but the real thing out on the small acreage we lived on. We had a small shed, not a real barn, and no fences, and though I was earning money as best I could picking berries and babysitting, I was a long way away from the $150 it would take to buy a trained horse back in 1965. I dreamed horsey dreams, mostly about golden horses with long white manes, hoping for that day when it would become real for me.
When the local radio station KGY’s Saturday morning horse news program announced their “Win a Horse” contest, I knew I had to try. The prize was a weanling colt, part Appaloosa, part Thoroughbred, and the contest was only open to youth ages 9 to 16 years old. All I had to do was write a 250 word or less essay on “Why I Should Have a Horse”. I worked and worked on my essay, crafting the right words and putting all my heart into it, hoping the judges would see me as a worthy potential owner. My family took me to visit the colt, a fuzzy engaging little bay fellow who was getting plenty of attention from all the children coming to visit him, and that visit made me even more determined. I mailed in my essay and waited.
On November 27, 1965, I got up early to listen to the program that was always featured on the radio at 8 AM on Saturday mornings. They said they had over 300 essays to choose from, and it was very difficult for them to decide who the colt should go to. I knew then I didn’t have a chance. They had several consolation prizes for 2nd through 4th place, so they read those essays, all written by teenagers and my heart was sinking by the minute. Then they said they were going to read the winning essay. The first sentence sounded very familiar to me, but it wasn’t until several sentences later that I realized they were reading my essay, not someone else’s. I leaped and shouted and woke up my whole family, including my dad, sick in bed with the flu, who opened one eye, looked at me, and said, “I guess I better get a fence up today, right?”
That little bay colt came home to live with me the next day. Over the next few months he and I learned together, as I checked out horse training books from the library, and tried every different technique in addition to joining 4H. By the time he was two, I was sitting on him, and by age three, I had earned enough to buy a saddle and was riding him on my own. Though he was not a golden-colored horse, he was my horse and I loved every inch of him.
When I went off to college, I found him a new home with someone who was able to care for him and he continued a happy life as I spent the next 13 years of my life living in the city. The horse dreams still swept me up as I spent hours in book stores poring over horse books and learning about various breeds. I knew I’d had my one special “gift” by winning my first horse, so the next horse I would have to earn on my own. I worked long hours, many nights and many holidays, earning what I could to eventually move from the city and own some land for a future horse and a future family.
Along the way, I found a farm boy also “stuck” in the city and together we worked on building our dream (his was NOT horses but he was gracious enough to honor my dream!). We bought our farm a full two years before we actually could afford to leave our city jobs behind to move there. In the meantime, I had opened a book in one of my many city bookstore visits, and there were my golden dream horses, running wild through green mountain meadows, their white manes and tails streaming out behind them. I bought that book in a heart beat, and began my search for the magical Haflinger. Within a month of our moving to the farm, on November 27, 1985, our first Haflinger joined us.
Twenty years separated my first horse from my second horse, but November 27 represents the date I was able to realize my dreams. As I was cleaning the barn this morning, after moving seven golden Haflingers out to their day time paddocks, I marveled at the privilege it is to work to raise these beautiful horses. They own me, heart and soul. I will do whatever I must to help this dream come true for others who have known that someday, there must be a golden horse in their future.