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Crazy About Horses

By Christina Sturgis

One of my earliest memories is running to the screen door on a summer’s day at the sound of horses clip-clopping past my house. I was probably about 2 years old and less than 2 feet tall. As the horses would pass, their riders no doubt steering them toward the woodland trail that began where our street ended, I would snap the spring across the bottom of the screen and shout, “horsey.”

That’s right I was one of those horse crazy girls. And a pretty fortunate one because my dad knew horses, carpentry and was willing to turn his tool shed into a stable. He had a pony when he was a boy in the 1920s and I had seen the black and white photograph of dad atop the pinto named Sport.

By the time I was 4 I had a pony colt called Go Boy. His purebred name, Elder Brewster, wasn’t cute and did not roll off the tongue. Anyone who looked in the corral at our baby stallion could plainly see our boy go and go and go.

As I got tired of waiting for Go Boy to be ready to ride, he was replaced by a Welsh pony dubbed Topper. Eventually Topper carried me on my paper route the summer I was 13, and I was even given a full-size horse named Gypsy whom I rode in 4-H shows.

I was not just a rider or driver of Topper’s pony cart. I read horse stories, wore cowgirl regalia or British riding attire whenever possible and honed my skills at drawing pictures of the objects of my affection.  These early renderings were as realistic as I could get them. Why tamper with perfection?

I have never forgotten the lessons of empathy my dad taught me in and around our stable. He said the key to being a good horsewoman was to understand how horses think and feel.  He said they are prey, not predators, with only their swiftness to defend themselves. Therefore, they needed to be handled quietly and calmly.

He said, “Chrissie, always talk to your horse. He won’t understand all the words, but the calmness in your voice will reassure him.”

Dad was a horse whisperer long before Robert Redford ever heard of Monty Roberts.

Years later, I joined an artist’s group to perfect my skills at photography, a nice accompaniment to my journalism career.  Somehow, we all started drawing and I returned to the subject of my childhood but with a twist.

I no longer needed to draw horses exactly as they are; I had become free to draw them in wild colors with exaggerated expressions.  Horses were both literally horses, but they were also symbols of wild emotions with galloping hooves and flying manes.  I no longer had my very own horse in my very own stable, but I had reined in a way of getting around, of navigating my emotions and imagination.

Join my on the trek!