You don’t stop riding because you get old; you get old when you stop riding
As teenagers, my next-younger brother and I decided we had to move up to a horse after a few years living with a donkey on my parents’ property in Ohio. This, of course, required the approval of our Dad, his driving us about the area, looking for a horse, and reading yard signs advertising “House for sale” as “Horse for sale”. At the time, there must have been a lot of people who wanted to sell their horse. There wasn’t much difference between “house” and “horse”.
Eventually, we found a Morgan/quarter-horse gelding and brought him home in a rented one-horse trailer. Arriving home with the rented trailer, Dad wondered, “Now what?”. Not considering what could happen, I squeezed between the horse and the trailer wall to back him out.
We modified our existing one-donkey shed to make room for the horse. What had been in the shed had to be moved to the garage. The donkey decided he was boss, until a kick from the horse ended settled the matter.
The donkey would escape from time to time, come up to the house, and bray under the parents’ bedroom window. He was letting us know he’d gotten out, and wanted someone to come out to play with him (in the middle of the night). Imagine being awakened by a braying donkey in the middle of the night. Dad got up and followed the donkey until he got tired of the game. The donkey would then follow Dad back to what we called our corral and stayed put until we fixed the fence the next day.
We could get to the towpath of the long-abandoned canal and ride for miles to the Metropolitan Park System around Cleveland, Ohio. I remember a three-day trail ride on a borrowed horse, belonging to a friend of Dad’s. This friend eventually let us keep his second horse on the property of a retired dairy farmer, with my horse. This gave us a second horse, and the chance for my brother and I to ride together on the canal towpath.
Being both football managers in high school, one day, my brother and I rode the two horses to football practice and took advantage of the chance to canter on the then-cinder running track. This displeased the principal and we had to rake out the hoof-prints in the track. Once was enough and we never did this again.
Nearing the end of high-school, with college approaching, my horse had to be sold. My Dad got transferred to New England. The house and property in Ohio had to be sold as well.
I lived with aging parents for a number of years. After both had passed, I began to wonder if I could get back to riding horses. This became possible as I discovered Cornerstone Ranch and the good fortune of being around horses again, of being able to help with the endless chores of caring for them, and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Now, aging myself, I remember a couple of quotes: “You don’t stop riding because you get old; you get old when you stop riding.” The late Winston Churchill said that “there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” I could wish that two of my brothers who feel they’ve “outgrown” horses could change their minds, but that won’t happen. Opinions become set in stone.
I prefer not to consider the term “aging”. Once, I overheard a male resident of the apartment complex where I live wondering where I get my energy. Being able to be around horses, having them like me, keeps me going and will for some time to come.
~written by Gary Shamel, Cornerstone rider and friend to Happy, Dusty, and many other horses