I’ve been back at the barn lately…my daughter leases ‘Pumpkin’ a sweet and spicy old Chestnut Quarter Horse who reminds me a lot of my first horse.

I was thinking about who I was at Izzi’s age (12) and realized that my first horse (and my strong desire for her) really helped shape me into who I am.

I had horse fever from the time I could walk. One of my earliest memories is of my mom pulling me in a little red wagon to go see the ‘neighbors’ horses (1/2 mile away is still a neighbor when you’re super rural). She pulled me up to the fence where a big Appaloosa promptly bit my back! My mom was horrified, I cried a good bit but I wanted more of that horse! I didn’t blame her, she wanted the apple in my hand and her teeth hit the wrong target.

After years of lessons from age 5 I begged for a horse. At 8 years old I would muck stalls all weekend at my lesson barn just to get an extra ride. At a family friend’s farm I would ride up and down the driveway on a horse no one else would ride. Chip, an old sorrel mare, was unpredictable and could only be walked, according to her owner, due to her past. To me she was a dream. When I was 11, Chip’s owner, Mike, gifted me this nearly 30 year old Quarter horse, whom I loved.

My parents weren’t sure I was ready for the commitment of horse ownership. They weren’t horse people. We didn’t have a barn or fencing. But my persistence paid off. I waited patiently and assured my parent’s I would take the best care of her. Chip and I were destined for each other.

My dad built me a little red barn. I was responsible to take care of Chip, no matter the day, no matter the weather. Winter meant up before sunrise, suit up in my ‘snowmobile’ suit and boots, get 2 buckets of hot water and make my way through inches, sometimes feet of snow & ice down to the barn 200 yards away. Rain or shine, ice or wind, Chip needed fresh water and hay 2x/day. There was no electricity or running water in the barn.
My love for Chip and my excitement to be a bonafide horse owner far outweighed the hardships. Waking up an hour early every day trudging through deep icy snow in below zero temps, hauling buckets, throwing hay bales, mucking her stall all seemed like a privilege.

Riding Chip was a whole other story! Being trained as a calf roping horse she would only stop after the weight of her rider was out of the stirrups. She was trained to run at a dead gallop as soon as she had a rider.

She had the sweetest, mildest temperament and ground manners but her whole demeanor changed when saddled. So naturally I rode her without a saddle. That meant in order for her stop when she was going faster than a walk I pretty much had to jump or fall off.

Good times! Why do we have such little sense and absolutely no fear at 11 years old???

I really learned about my adventurous & fearless nature on trail rides with Chip. I also learned how strong I am. Ask me sometime about my near death experiences as a tween on horseback. Sheesh.

One dark, cloudy morning, December 24th to be exact, I waded through the snow and ice with my hot buckets of water and from afar saw Chip laying down. I called to her but she didn’t get up. Scooting under the electric fence I knew immediately. She had spun herself in a circle, down into the snow. She had colicked in the night. Her body was already cold.

I mourned that mare for a long time. She was my best friend.

She gave me so much by just being herself. She wasn’t great at following directions and she helped me get into A LOT of trouble..but .she always kept me safe and taught me much about who I am. She may have taught me that it’s ok to be myself. She taught me to accept things as they are and never take what you have for granted. Life is what we make it.

Discipline. Commitment. Patience. Chip taught me how to be of service. She taught me to be daring and adventurous -I needed these traits for entrepreneurship. I needed these traits when the decision to stay on this farm and make a ‘go of it’ as a farmer was the choice screaming in my head. Chip and farming taught me that persistence pays off.

It is brave (some may use another word) to shun the advice of many and strike out on your own uncertain path…but with persistence and knowing who you are and what you’ve been put on this Earth to do the path unrolls in front of you, one step at a time.

Thank you Chip.

and thanks to all of you who support Oak Spring Farm!