A Horse Of Course – Duke

While it is true that I have owned many horses and each share a special place in my heart, there are those that stand out for one reason or another. Duke is such a horse.  He stands out not because he was a pure-bred, fast or exceptional in any commonly measurable way, but because he was a gentleman.

Duke – 1981

In 1977 as the first pre-trained horse I ever rode, Duke was a true learning experience. His stature was only about 15 hands tall and stout. I had never ridden a horse that neck-reined – WOW!  The first time I touched the rein to his neck, I had to hang on. Lucky for me he had a long, thick mane.

To look at the pictures here, you would think that he was not all that remarkable. What you do not see in these pictures (well maybe except for the last one), is how he overcame his common background to be extraordinary in many ways. Duke was my first barrel horse, and while he was not the caliber of horse seen at the big rodeos, he was consistent and steady and won many awards for being more like the tortoise than the hare.

One of my first big speed events was the Little “I” International. This was an indoor competition held at the Colosseum in Madison Wisconsin. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s the footing was not as good as it could have been and there were some mishaps. It is curious that during this first event I was wearing a helmet. This is a habit I quickly lost.  Luckily, the one time I needed one, It was there. The picture that follows shows just what happens when you do a face-plant in rich dirt and slide into the wall. My helmet was cracked, my teeth were gritty but I had a smile on my face!  Any tumble that you and your horse walk away from without too much pain is considered a success.

Duke was a horse of many talents. Not only was he my first mount for horse shows and speed events, he also was a solid partner for coon hunting. Back in those days, we hunted for coon on horseback exclusively. There is nothing like a ride in the dark of night with nothing more than the moon or a head lamp to light the way.  Duke was unflinching as he walked ahead in the blackness and never budged when the gunshot rang out.  I really do miss those days.

Finally, I had so much fun with Duke as a parade horse. Pictured here in the Adams-Friendship 4th of July Parade in the late 70’s, Duke was sure to please the crowd. He performed many tricks such as loping in place, rearing and prancing side to side.  Then, with as much ease, he would relax for kids to approach and pet him.

Duke lived well into his 20’s. In the life of a horse, this is considered acceptable; however, there is never a good time to lose a great friend. It has been over 20 years since his passing, but I still remember all the barrel runs, parades and moonlit hunts that we shared together.

Do you have a remarkable old friend that has shared so many adventures?

A Horse of Course – Trinket

We had moved to Wisconsin from Chicago when I was about 7 years old. Living in a one-room cabin with a small attachment and no inside toilet was certainly a change from living in the city, but I really didn’t care. Dad had promised me a horse and sure as shooting, by spring the first true love of my life arrived.

Her name was Trinket. She was about a year and a half old, black with striped hooves and dots on her muzzle. She was not very big at all, what folks would call a POA – a small Appaloosa. At the time, I really didn’t care what she was as long as she had four hooves and whinnied when I came to the barn. I was in little girl heaven. Of course I had never ridden a horse before, or cared for one or even spent more than a few minutes around them. This left me deliriously clueless. Lucky for me, my new best friend didn’t care how dumb I was – it was love at first sight.

I really wish I had a picture of her to share with you, but try as I may; I am unable to locate one. The picture in my mind’s eye is probably more majestic, beautiful and amazing than reality but that is ok with me too.

Being the impatient child that I was, listening to my parents when they told me to be careful was out of the question. I was small, agile and light even for this small horse so she didn’t mind when I sat on her back while she ate in her tie stall.  Each day I grew braver and more confident around her until just before Trinket turned 2 years old, I decided it was time we went for a solo stroll around the pasture.  There was one problem – I had no tack (the stuff you put on a horse like bridle and saddle so you can control them and ride).  As with all other like challenges, I rose to this one and produced a length of binder twine.

I was to find that through my equine career, binder twine would become my 2nd best friend.

After leading my trusty steed from the barn to stand next to the water tank, I looped the rope on each side of her halter to create make-shift reins then hopped on.  I remained seated for about 2 strides after she lunged forward with surprise only to slide ignominiously off and then bounce upon the grass for an equal number before coming to rest.  I looked down the pasture to see Trinket standing about 20 feet away eating grass.

Most normal people would have decided this was not the way to learn to ride a horse – good thing I have never been close to normal. I walked up to my girl, took the “reins” and lead her back to the tank. This time I lasted 4 strides before bouncing down the pasture, a sure sign of progress.

Overall, it took many tries before both Trinket and I realized what was needed to work as a team. She never bucked; I was just totally uncoordinated at first. Once I got the hang of the rhythm of her movements things evened out and my first attempt at being a cowgirl could be deemed successful. Of course, I was bruised from head to toe, but I didn’t care. All you “horse girls” out there know just what I mean!

Over the next few years, Trinket and I were inseparable. I rode her all the way from our home to Woodside Ranch to watch the Gymkhana’s whenever I could. I even rode along with the livery riders from time to time. I was not very shy and readily offered to help bring up the rear.  Bythen my dad had bought me a saddle and bridle so I was much more respectable (although, I loved riding bareback the best).  By the time I was 12, we had moved to a new place a few miles away (one that did have indoor plumbing) and we obtained another horse, a 2 year old Appaloosa named Notsuam Siw (Mauston Wis spelled backwards).

I wish I could say that this story has a happy ending – that my first true equine love lived a long and happy life; but I can’t. Shortly after this, my dad got a new job and we had to move. I was told the horses could not go with. I am pretty sure I know what happened, but to this day would rather believe that some young girl wound up with my Trinket and gave her a happy home for a very long time.

A Horse-Of Course

I suppose that with the big “half century” looming before me, it is a great time to begin some reflection. As I contemplated what I wanted to write about in the New Year, one subject kept coming up on top:  my horses.  Ever since I can remember, I was one of “those” little girls.  Each night when other children were saying their prayers which included pleas for toys or dolls, I only prayed for a horse… even a little horse.

One day that wish did come true.

Since I was 7 years old (approximately 43 years in total), I have lived with and loved many horses. At the high point, I owned 47 of these amazing creatures, but today am back down to 2. I have competed in events ranging from speed, to pleasure and even tried my hand at endurance riding.  I have tied a goat, turned a barrel and jumped standards while aboard a beautiful grey Saddlebred. I even painted a horse to look like a zebra.

Many of the horses I have trained myself, others have been rehabilitated, but every single one of them has been a joy to share my life with.  Some have been used to share my love of riding with


my own children or to teach others to ride themselves.  Many of my best friends over the course of these years have come into my life as a result of being on or around a horse. I owe them so much.

When I need a shoulder to cry on, a side to lean on or someone to listen without judgment as I proclaim the way I feel about the world, the constant has always been my equine friends. So, as part of my musing in this blog, I will be introducing you to many of the great horses of my life.  Very soon I will begin with Trinket – my very first horse.

UW Stout Graduation – 2012

Almost two years ago, I was sitting among a large group of graduates at the University of Wisconsin Superior getting ready to receive my college degree. I never dreamed that in my 40’s I would take the plunge and go to college to get a Bachelor’s degree in Communication. I was so proud, a bit teary eyed and then something happened.

I looked at the next tiny group marching up the stairs to receive their diplomas and noticed that there was something different about them. Their

gowns had additional elements to their sleeves and they carried over their arm a multi-colored hood.  But what was more striking was that this group of men and women marched forward with more of a purpose – their strides and presence conveyed a sense of confidence that spoke volumes.  At that moment, I just knew that I had to become one of them. These were graduate students.

So, here I am – graduating from the University of Wisconsin- Stout with a Master’s Degree in Technical and Professional Communications.  Can you tell from the pictures that same additional confidence and purpose?  I can!  Having my friends and family around me only made this day all the more wonderful. With this being said, I just cannot thank my family enough for their support over the last seven years.  It takes a special husband to tackle the extra duties that I could not and to share me with classmates, professors and books. The support I received from both my husband and daughter made it possible for me to attend school full time while working and trying to have a family life.

What happens now is really another great adventure.  I will continue to work hard and love my family; however, now I am set on a new road of discovery and excitement.

I plan to write – a lot!  I also intend to take a bit of time to relax, read a book and not write a paper on it and reflect just how amazing this entire process truly has been. I just can’t wait to see what happens next!

Christmas Cookies 2012

Who doesn’t love Christmas cookies?  Even if you are watching your weight, the sight of decorated varieties of home-made cookies just seems to fit around the holidays.  In our family, it has been a tradition to bake, and each year we produce an ever-increasing variety.

This year was a rebellious year. Our house has been on the market and even though I have put off having a garden for two years running, I was not about to forego the cookie making fun just in case someone called at the last minute for a showing.  My feeling is that if they want to come visit at the holidays, they will just see how functional this kitchen is!

Of course, we bake cookies around here for more reasons than to gain the proverbial 10 lbs over the holidays – heck, there is a world of good food this time of year to help out for that.  Another reason we bake is to give as gifts to our good friends.  By sharing a gift that was made, not bought, there is that special connection of caring that only this type provides.

So, if you are stumped with how to make this Holiday season special, or want to find that perfect gift for a busy friend – maybe it is time to don that special apron (I got one as a gift already this year).

And if you are looking for recipes to make cookies like the ones I have here, this is an easy fix as well. The cookies pictured in this blog were all made with recipes I got from free programs on my iPad.  The internet has amazing sites like:

All Recipes 

Taste of Home

Very Best Baking

Mom’s Who Think

So don’t hate me because I bake at the Holidays, get up and throw some flour around!

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