Gifts of the Father
My best, most memorable gifts ever came from my dad, who passed away of cancer in June of 2008. Dad was a saddlemaker--who didn't start making saddles until he was 60. Still, he made many saddles and sold them in virtually every state as well as in Germany.
On my birthday a few years ago, he surprised me with a beautiful Western saddle, matching bridle, and breastcollar, all that he'd made himself. He'd undergone chemotherapy a few years earlier, so I was surprised that he'd taken so much time to make me such a wonderful surprise.
But that wasn't all. I didn't know it at the time, but hidden in his pole barn was a new two-horse trailer--which he'd also made! That he gave me a few months later, when it was completely finished.
He said wanted me to be "all set up" when I found that special horse. I'd been away from horses about 28 years after getting married and having three kids. Things were tight.
I finally did find that special horse, however, just recently. Now I will always have great memories of my dad, plus always treasure those fabulous surprise gifts.
--Debbie Matuszewski, Wisconsin
From Sparkle to Twinkle
After my family said an indescribably sad goodbye to our Tennessee Walking Horse Sparkle last year, I found myself sobbing while telling another school mom about Sparkle's leaving this world for another. Without hesitating she said, "You'll take Cracker Jack."
Three days later, Cracker Jack, a 30-plus-year-old POA mare, became part of our family. I changed her name to Twinkle, because she has a small star on her forehead, plus I felt that loving a Twinkle after losing a Sparkle would be nice.
Today people who see her guess that she's 15--and these are people who know horses. She has more pep in her step than our much younger Tennessee Walker, Magic. My 7-year-old and I both ride Twinkle, and she makes us very happy.
--Carol Drummond, Washington
Handsome Horse Heads
The best horse gift I've gotten would be the present my sister, Karen, brought me from South Dakota: two painted wooden horse heads handmade by an Indian man named Sam Two-Bulls. They're pretty and colorful, and I'll never forget the day I got them.
--Christian Bounds, Michigan
A Little Bay Arabian
In 1987, when I was 8 years old, my mom told me to come outside. There, in front of our house, was a trailer containing an Arabian mare (for me) and her yearling colt (for my older sister). I'd always loved horses but never dared to ask for one, and still my dream became reality.
Over the next eight years, that little bay Arabian taught me so much, and I still learn from her every day just remembering those experiences. I'll be forever grateful to my parents for sacrificing so much to give such an enriching, life-changing gift!
--Erin Rodriguez, Texas
A Second Horse
My best gift was a horse my husband surprised me with so that we could ride together. Not being a horseman, he talked to experienced horse people, including my farrier, to make sure he found the right horse and had it properly vet-checked in advance.
I've now owned that gelding for nine years, in addition to the Arabian I already had. The gelding is a great trail horse and has enabled my husband and me to log many happy miles together.
--Jennifer Everard, Wisconsin
Third Time's The Charm
My best gift is the knowledge, "training," and joy I received from my third horse, a 10-year-old Quarter Horse named Cowboy. I'd bought my first horse when I was 50, and my second not long after. Both were mistakes. It was Cowboy that I was looking for.
He's gone now, but the skills and memories he gave me live on.
--Matt Clarich, Arizona
The Image of My Horse
I acquired my first horse, an 8-year-old Paint named Steel, when I was 11 years old. He was my best friend for 13 years. My boyfriend at the time drew a picture of Steel standing in the field.
That picture means so much me, especially as I no longer have that wonderful horse. A few years ago for Christmas, my mom had the picture framed, and now I can see my boy every day.
When I walk my son past the picture, he reaches out to touch it-and that about brings a tear to my eye!
--Sonya Proctor, North Carolina
A Model Gift
One Christmas my son surprised me with a "Trail of Painted Ponies" Quarter Horse. I wept with delight. Since then, we've welcomed three real horses into our lives. But I'll always treasure my inspirational model horse.
--Diane Etchells, California
A Special Bridle
When I was young, all the girls at the lesson stable I frequented owned their own bridles, so my mom and dad gave me one as an eighth-grade graduation present.
Over the years the bits have changed, minor repairs have been made, and the horses that have worn it have come and gone, but the bridle still looks and works well--for being 46 years old!
It's currently being used on my Foxtrotter gelding, Lad.
--Jill Kohut, Missouri
My Horse-Show Coordinator
After I returned to the show pen at the age of 58, my non-horsey husband sat me down for a talk. He said he was looking forward to watching and helping me at my first show, but that his hobby was fishing, and he didn't want to give that up. So, after that first show, he said, I'd be on my own.
Only it didn't work out that way. From the first show onward, on it was hook, line, and sinker! He now refers to himself as my Horse-Show Coordinator, and I couldn't have asked for a better horse-related gift than that.
--Elizabeth Hrbolich, Ohio