I lived in Kansas City (Missouri) until I was nine, spending most of my time riding a stick horse and singing cowboy songs I learned from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans’ records. I wanted a horse like Trigger or Black Beauty, and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t keep a real horse in the garage. I guess I knew deep down inside, we couldn’t really keep a horse in the garage; but I wanted to be a cowgirl. My dad didn’t say yes to my request for a horse, but didn’t say no, either! So I kept thinking there was hope!
The summer of 1958 our family moved to Lee’s Summit, Missouri and I got my first childhood pony. The eight acres had an orchard, a barn with fenced pastures, and a fishing lake of about an acre. My dad bought the property from Carl (Karl?) Holder. It was called Holder Lake and had a small fishing business open to the public, with a limit of fish, and the size, you could keep.
Princess was a a beautiful Welsh and Shetland cross, with a light chestnut coat, flaxen mane and tail, with one white sock and a blaze. My parents got me a set of Professor Berry’s School of Horsemanship–the “Parelli” of the day–so I was introduced to horses through them and learned the caretaking, tacking up, and treating a horse with kindness. My first canter on Princess was one of my favorite memories.
Priness was in foal when we got her, and was due the following spring. It was the end of May, and no foal. Well, my birthday is May 30, and much to the surprise of me and my city friends, a filly was born during my birthday party! She had a white crescent on her forehead, so I named her Crescent: her nickname was Cressie.
Princess was bred back, but unexpectedly died from that pregnancy, but I raised and trained Cressie, and my parents had me join the 4-H Club.
I learned to ride quite well with Cressie, seldom taking the time to put on a saddle or bridle. I’d just swing up and she’d take off full speed across the pasture, coming to a slide stop at the fence. Staying on just came naturally. I never had a lesson; probably made a lot of mistakes, but learned a lot too. As a member of 4-H I qualified to participate in the Jackson Country Fair. A couple of times with Cressie, but competing against fast horses, I only got a particiation ribbon.
My mother made arrangements with my cousin to board her horse at our place. She was a professionally trained registered Quarter horse mare, and with her I placed 2nd in the pleasure class at my first show. Reva was with foal, due the following summier. My mother decided to buy another horse that would be mine–a white brood mare with a foal at her side. Her name was Topsy, and the colt was Lafia (La-fee-ya).
It was in October of 1963 when they arrived. It was quite an exciting moment! I believe that same month, or shortly thereafter my mother’s cancer recurred. It had been in a 10-year remission, until now.
After a hard winter trying to maintain the four horses, four months later–my mother died. Cressie, Topsy with foal, and Reva who was pregnant were all high maintenance. I knew that soon Lafia would have to be gelded– another expense. I did not know how to professionally train a colt and I recognized Lafia had quality. It was a mutual agreement between me and my dad that it would be in the best interest for the horses to sell them.
My cousin took Reva back and got her the care she needed. I never knew the fate of the others. But several years later after moving to Lone Jack, I got a call from the lady who my mother bought Topsy from, asking who we sold Lafia to. I didn’t know. But she had just met the man who bought him. He had grown into a fine show horse. So I felt closure that he was being well cared for.
In 1979, my husband and I bought a couple of acres In Lone Jack, with my hopes of owning a horse again. But many circumstances prevented that for many years. But finally, in 1999 I bought my dream horse: a Palomino mare named Jackie.
It had been a long time since I had owned a horse, and a lot of exciting changes had taken place in the horse industry. I discovered and studied the training techniques of John Lyons, and Brent Graef, as well as Pat Parelli. I use many of their techniques today in a combination suitable for my individual students.
With a newfound passion for horses, “Parelli’s Savvy System” and a wonderful mare, I was “back in the saddle again”! My then new adventure was to share all my information with others; especially kids who have that same “cowboy” dream that I had when I was their age….
Another way I keep in contact and help mentor youngsters is through the HorsePower Kids program in eastern Jackson County. It’s faith-based, and their mission is to help youth at risk who have been placed in foster homes or a facility where they are waiting to be placed in a home. The program uses horses to teach the students life-coping skills.
“Mentors” in the program as well as “horse handlers” undergo standardized training and volunteers are always needed.
If you are interested in learning more or volunteering, go to: HorsePowerKids.org
I have erroneously been titled the “HorsePower Horse Whisperer”! The goal is to maintain a safe learning environment for the horses, as well as the students and volunteers. My role in the program was to teach the volunteers the communication skills with the horses, and I developed a training program that focused on just what was needed for class. Setting boundaries for the horses, respecting the human’s space, and having the horse lead beside the human at a walk-trot. The program corrected some of the horse’s bad behavior caused mostly by confusion, and this got everybody on the same page. So my past experience with horses was put to good use.